[0:00:05.8] ANNOUNCER: Welcome back to Happy Porch Radio. The digital agency podcast
for progressive agency owners and web professionals. Season four is an exploration of diversity
in our industry. Especially gender diversity.
This season, your host, Barry O’Kane is joined by some wonderful cohosts. For conversations
with agency leaders and diversity and inclusion experts.
[0:00:43.7] BOK: Welcome back to Happy Porch Radio. A few weeks ago at an Umbraco
conference in London, I had the pleasure of listening to a short presentation that has really
stuck with me. Chris Howard is a senior business analyst and also a leader of Intertech LGBT+
Diversity Forum. One reason that I keep thinking about his presentation is a short exercise that
he did with the audience as a way of sharing the challenges some experience every day at
So, I asked him on the podcast to share it with us all. In this conversation, Erica and I learn
more about this little exercise, more about pink washing, recruitment washing and how an
iterative approach is the best way for anything to become more diverse. Let’s meet Chris.
[0:01:17.0] CH: I’m Chris Howard. My day job, I’m a digital transformation consultant for an
Eastern European consultancy specializing in supporting businesses on their little journeys,
there goes part of that. I have a lot of interaction with people from diverse backgrounds and that
sort of manifested in me co-leading an organization called Intertech Diversity Forum and we
exist to promote LGBT+ specifically at diversity across the UK technology sector. More and
more as this focus in industry is growing, we’re being asked to support organizations on a wider ream of diversity. Be that through a number of different activities angles and exercises. Keeping
me very busy and it’s something I’ve been very passionate about, I’ve been doing for the last
two years in a leadership position.
[0:02:07.1] BOK: Yeah, that’s obviously why we’ve invited you on the show. Chris, you
presented at the Umbraco conference in London a few weeks ago where I met you for the first
time and I think that presentation - it was really fascinating and quite inspiring actually. I’d like to
talk a little bit about that but just to say thanks and welcome to the show.
[0:02:23.9] CH: No, thank you, yeah, of course.
[0:02:25.1] BOK: We’ve also got- Erica is back with me again. Hey again Erica.
[0:02:27.6] ERICA: Hello to both of you.
[0:02:29.4] BOK: Chris, tell us a little bit about Intertech, you said you’ve been in a leadership
role for a couple of years now. What exactly does that mean and what does Intertech do?
[0:02:38.3] CH: Yeah, absolutely. Intertech was founded in 2012 by two good friends of mine
actually. And it was a setup really to fill a gap that exists in the UK technology sector and that
was a gap for LGBT+ people to feel like it was a place that was both great for them to work but
also welcoming for them to work. It originally existed kind of in a capacity of providing events or
networking, meetups that we’ve all no doubt been to for various reasons.
Over the last three or four years, well, primarily two, where I have hoping involved, we’ve really
started to focus on what we can do for the wider industry. We’re doing events all the time, we
did a fantastic event last week with another one coming up this Christmas, that’s going well
that’s our bread and butter.
Actually, we’ve got so many members, three and a half thousand who are in various positions of
leadership that we are leveraging that to support people like the city of London on how they’re
embracing diversity for both themselves but also businesses that operated within their remit. We’re advising government panels on how they can think about technology not just as a facet of
industry but actually as a diverse community. We’re finally realizing the power we’ve got behind
us. What’s remarkable about all this is we’re a nonprofit and they’re all volunteers, as myself
and two others who are co-leads.
Then we rely upon our volunteers who were other people who identify who is LGBT+ are our
allies, to really push us forward and bounce off those connections they’ve got, provide us
opportunities to work with our members. It’s all great, it’s all good fun and it keeps me busy. If
not, just in the evenings for networking but yeah, it’s a fantastic organization and I’m proud to be
a part of it.
[0:04:18.4] BOK: Yeah, it sounds totally amazing and you say it’s you’re one of the leads but
it’s definitely something you do as a side project in your spare time because you have the day
job as well, right?
[0:04:29.6] CH: Yeah, absolutely, it is and much like I’m sure we’ve all been involved in various
voluntary things. It really is however much you put in, you get out. It is on top of my day job
which I also love I know it’s rare you hear people say that. I don’t mind actually in the evening or
during lunch squeezing in some work to do for Intertech as well. But like I say, we massively
allow people supporting us and organizations working with us as well.
We really appreciate people who come to us. Indeed, this show as well for giving us some
visibility and letting us talk about the great stuff we’re doing.
[0:04:58.0] BOK: Yeah, maybe later on we can come back a little bit about and talk a little bit
more detail about that stuff. One place I wanted to start with this conversation is the talk you did
in London, you started off with this little exercise which has been – I’ve been totally obsessed
and have been thinking about it a lot ever since.
It seems so incredibly simple but yet quite powerful and might be interesting if you could just
share that now and maybe we can talk a little bit about why that was where you started?
[0:05:26.1] CH: Yeah, absolutely. It’s great to hear that you’ve been thinking about it because
that’s the absolute value that I wanted people to take away from it. The easiest way to do this is or indeed, if you want to sort of replicate on this for your listeners is to start off with just a quick
overview of what diversity means to people and that can be the people in the room or the
audience shouting out, things like sexuality, race, age, whether they’re a carer, mental health, et
Get all of those ideas on the table and then the exercise really, is to turn that around and say to
the individuals into space. I want you to turn to the person next to you, just take two minutes but
you can’t mention anything that relates to those items or aspects of diversity that we’ve just
An example of that would be, no pronouns, nothing to indicate location, nothing to indicate a
specific aspect of that diversity. So a religious place or the fact that you’re in the hospital in the
morning or anything related to that. And then talk for two minutes around that. Some people and
it may be the people who identify that are used to that and are doing that on the daily basis,
that’s the thing they’re hiding so they’re quite in tune with hiding that. The people who don’t think
about diversity as a blocker, really, to being your full self which is quite regularly, will find that
And the sort of message that people should take away from that or indeed when you beat back
at the end of the two minutes is that it’s a really difficult constant strain to be thinking about
whether you're using a pronoun or whether you’re indicating on a specific location that might
There are people in your agencies and your organizations living and doing that every day. So
it’s a two or three minute exercise that really brings home as you’ve said, the sort of stress or
the difficulty that some people are going through on a daily basis to try and just be themselves.
[0:07:19.1] BOK: When we did that, I was sitting next to a good friend Carol, who I am hoping
he’ll join us on this show in a couple of episodes and that first sort of, we just kind of looked at
each other going well, that’s difficult without knowing what to say. We definitely didn’t manage
two minutes. But one thing that did strike me was that she did find it a little bit easier, I don’t
know whether that was just her ability, her creative ability better than mine, she definitely found
the exercise slightly easier than I did which was kind of further emphasized for me how such a little simple little exercise, different people coming from different places can have – find this
Because it’s something that I’ve never personally experienced I don’t think in that way, I find it
much harder even than some people I admire and respect and work really closely with. Yeah, it
was really powerful and I mean, Erica, I don’t know if this is the right question but how would
you find that exercise?
[0:08:09.2] ERICA: I think I would find it difficult as well. Maybe – I hate to play the gender card
but maybe that is why Carol found it slightly easier is as women in the tech industry, we do have
to hide a lot of things or we have to present ourselves in a manner that’s maybe not truly us. To
try to get a foot in the door or get respect on that level and so I think, to some extent, some
aspects of it might be easier but I’ve actually been trying to eliminate the word guys from my
vocabulary. Like, “Hey guys, what’s going on?” You know? I find that incredibly difficult to do.
I catch myself all the time so yeah, I do. I do think it will be challenging to try to not use
pronouns and location information or anything that might indicate some kind of bias.
[0:08:55.8] CH: It was certainly interesting actually, I’ve done this in a number of organizations
that there’s of course the obvious ones for one a better term around, things like gender,
sexuality, et cetera. We were getting reasons, the people providing or we’re finding or in their
real life scenarios.
Things like, the fact that I don’t know the 25 year old guy that doesn’t join the new Friday
afternoon ping-pong because he can’t stand for too long. He’s hiding his disability or the fact
that the lady who has always been late on a Thursday morning because actually, she’s been
taking her disabled daughter to hospital every week but just hasn’t felt the organizations been
welcoming of that.
These are the kind of constant battles that people are doing every day and it’s such a spectrum
of that diversity that it really does take you back when you have to do the task yourself and think
about those reasons we just mentioned.
[0:09:47.4] ERICA: Yeah, absolutely.
[0:09:48.5] BOK: Thinking about that exercise or I guess the point you just made there about
the environment, the person makes them feel like they can’t or they need to hide or there isn’t
welcoming to or isn’t accepting of those kinds of challenges. Putting on, I guess, a leadership
hat or a management or a founder’s hat, what would you be saying to people like myself who
are trying to lead teams about how to share this kind of thing and do it and kind of build
awareness and challenges just in terms of awareness and the conversations and the knowledge
within the team? What would you say to people like me?
[0:10:24.0] CH: Yeah, I mean, I suppose we’ve all heard the explosion of diverse teams being
better teams and diversity is good for the bottom line and we don’t need me to tell you this. I
think that widely accepted concept within business. But it’s actually – you raise a really valid
point Barry on how do you actually enact that or how do you get that culture. I suppose it’s a bit
of a luxury within the tech industry that we’re all fairly receptive to change and we like to be on
top of the latest things.
Be that three years ago, the ping-pong tables or now whatever Google are doing in the King’s
Cross off is et cetera. There’s absoulte opportunity to embrace this, what we found through
working with organizations from the very small start all the way up to the biggest corporates is
that it doesn’t really need to be top down. It has to be the individuals. It has to be to quote, “be
the change you want to see” and it has to be individuals making that work place the experience,
how they would want it to be.
Now, that’s very easy to say because I don’t see any problem as an out man myself with various
diversity strands I am happy and be out about that and talk about that. At the same time, if
you’re asking someone to be that change but they’re yet not comfortable with their own
diversity, it’s about this concept therefore of pushing things like allies, role models, making sure
that people feel like they can work in your organization. That really rest on all of our shoulders,
that’s not to CEO at the top anymore, that’s about as being a community and a culture that we
all must be a part of.
[0:11:59.5] BOK: Can you define for me, I got different answers to this question for myself at
different times and from different people. Can you define for me what an ally is?
[0:12:09.0] CH: Yeah.
[0:12:09.9] BOK: How to actually be an ally.
[0:12:11.8] CH: Yeah, absolutely. The reason I liked to call them allies and maybe one of the
definitions you’ve heard before is almost a lining of role model. I see them as very different soan ally to me is not a role model in the sense that someone who I identify with perhaps because
we’re both gay and therefore I see myself being like him 10 years. That’s a role model.
An ally for me is someone who sees me as gay and says, “Well, I’m totally welcoming of that, if
there’s anything that I can do for that or to make your experience better then let me know.” Now,
that could be at a very basic level and you might think this is trivial but it can make a massive
difference, that could be wearing a rainbow lanyard or that could have a gender equality flag on
their desk. All the way up to someone actually consciously going along to a network resource
group or overhearing a conversation and of course this difficulties there of someone needs,
having some trouble at home or someone with some mental health problems and actually
raising that with them.
Again, the spectrum of what being ally means, it can be very light touch, something visual,
something like an email signature or it can be all the way up to the top and actually being – I’ve
seen this in organizations and executive sponsor of a network group of someone who is actually
pushing forward, an agenda, even though they don’t themselves identify as that diversity silo.
[0:13:33.8] BOK: Yeah, that’s really interesting and so it’s really interesting to me that you
separated the two, ally and role model and basically, are you saying, to paraphrase slightly that
the role model is kind of someone who is like me but to whom I can sort of learn from or aspire
to be more like. Whereas an ally is everybody else who is in some way encouraging or
accepting or whatever. Is that fair?
[0:13:55.7] CH: Yeah, of course, this is my interpretation and indeed, what we push forward for
Intertech. But the best way we surmise a my role model is scenario, for example, why would a
16 year old female apprentice or a boy from a poor socio economic background, want to apply
for your organization if there’s no one in your organization like them already? And a role model is about providing that stepping stone, that face or that familiarity, for those two individuals to
say, “Actually, hang about, this is an organization I can see myself in.”
Those two individuals wouldn’t see an ally necessarily. Until you are already in the organization
so they’ve taken that stepping stone but it’s almost about opening that door first before walking
through it and then meeting the allies.
[0:14:45.9] BOK: Erica, we’ve spoken about role models and I don’t know if this is such a very
simple, very dumb question but does that make sense to you as well?
[0:14:53.9] ERICA: It does, I feel like people are more likely to join a group or a workplace or a
club or whatever if they can identify or if they can picture themselves and that usually means are
there other people like them there. It is very hard to be the minority especially in larger groups
[0:15:13.7] CH: Absolutely, being honest with yourselves, over at Intertech, we’ve had this
exact problem. I mean, we’ve had this exact problem. I mean, we are predominantly gay men,
that’s our demographic and we are constantly striving to engage more women, engage more of
the trans community. And that’s through small efforts like making sure that our events are
inclusive in their terminology and the photos from our events include women for example in the
photos. All the way through actually making sure our panels are diverse, making sure the topics
we’re talking about are not within a particular group.
Absolutely. It’s something that we’re seeing in our diverse organization, It’s all aspects of what
[0:15:54.2] ERICA: That’s actually interesting to hear that you have- your group has the same
struggles that other groups have as well. And that – to me, that makes you more relatable to
know that all our struggles are the same, how do we increase diversity into different aspects,
whether it’s gender or socioeconomic or whatever.
[0:16:15.2] CH: Yeah, absolutely. I would hate for people to think and I actually think many
other diversity organizations would agree that we’re not in an ivory tower. We’re not at the top
saying this is how you are diverse, this is how you implement inclusivity. Because we’re living that problem as well but we’re constantly engaging with our members, we’re constantly working
with other organizations, for example, to shout out people at Lesbians Who Tech and the Gay
Women’s Network was onboard.
Who really create some synergy, provide opportunities and just make sure that what we’re
doing as a nonprofit is what we’re actually telling all of those corporates and organizations out
there to do as well.
[0:16:55.0] BOK: To go back a little bit to what the actual work of InterTech, you say you’ve got
a couple of events organized. I believe you actually work with as well as the larger groups and
the counsel and the government organizations you mentioned you also work with organizations
and companies, is that right?
[0:17:08.8] CH: Yup, what does that actually mean? Does that mean going in and working with
individuals or you know, when was that actually become concrete? A good question, one that
we’re asked quite a lot actually. The very highest level, it will mean, working with an
organization, consultancy, a tech company, a digital agency, to host an event which may well be
wrapped up as a recruitment event or it might be about promoting the diverse aspects of that
We’ll bring along our members. 100, 150 or so for any evening or conversation around a tech
based topic. And so last week we were talking about how a large data company can solve the
work challenges through data modeling, it’s all very technical, far over my head as a consultant.
But with the stream or the common vein there being the diversity angle. We’re all there for that
On the other flip side, you’ll see myself and some of the other volunteers going into
organizations at lunch time to potentially sit down with their HR teams or their diversity leads.
Sharing best practice. Because we’re in a fortunate position in having certain engagements with
organizations on the whole journey of becoming more D & I focused - we got some great
actions or lessons learned that we can share.
Our external facing stuff are what people know Intertech for, is great events, fantastic members
and lots of drinking and networking. Which is fantastic and that’s why we’re founded, we were founded to bring together a common group in the technology sector. But actually now, we’re so
proud to be helping organizations at all sizes and actually improving their offering to LGBT+ and
other diverse groups across the technology sector.
Not just in London now but we got a chapter in Sydney, one on Dublin and Paris is on the
horizon, it’s slowly taking on diversity on a global scale shall we say.
[0:19:03.3] BOK: That’s brilliant. I kind of want to dig that down even further into a little bit more
detail. When you talk about – let’s start with the external thing. As an organization, I want to
promote or share, improve my image, is that what you mean when I’m kind of saying you know,
working with Intertech to do that?
[0:19:20.4] CH: Yup, it would be dishonest of me to say that that isn’t how it is.
[0:19:26.3] BOK: I guess that is the question I’m asking is how much of – or does it matter if the
motivation of the organization is kind of – you know, the equivalent of green washing, you know,
it’s just sort of window dressing?
[0:19:37.1] CH: We’re very clear on the organizations that we work with that we remind them
that we can see through that kind of pink washing - for wants of a better term. We wouldn’t work
with an organization that was coming to us to perhaps tick a box or enable them to climb the
At the same time, we’re very honest with organizations and we expect them to be with us, on
the basis that if you are just doing this because you want to shout about the D & I stuff that you
are doing, where you want to make yourself more welcoming to the diverse crowds and talent
marketers out there and that’s perfectly fine because we all got to start somewhere.
There is nothing wrong with doing that because you are doing this as to go out to that stepping
stone into your organization otherwise you’d be shouting at a closed door. Well that’s fine but
we’re very careful about ensuring that we don’t just have people giving us lip service or hosting
us for an evening just so that you can generate some social media engagement but actually
then don’t live those values that they spoke about on the night.
[0:20:38.0] ERIKA: Does that happen often?
[0:20:39.4] CH: I would say it doesn’t happen very often but I would say that we do, we are
approached by organizations who are actually doing that and I think we’ve become wise to it
[0:20:46.7] BOK: Yeah that surprises me too. Because really what I was imagining is people
who are in a position where they want to – there is a genuine intention or a genuine desire to
become more diverse - but they’re just not sure where do I even begin or I don’t even know or I
think I have been trying to do the right things, recruiting or advertising in the right place but it just
seems to be such a difficult journey to get from where we are now to where we want to be.
[0:21:12.1] CH: Yeah, I think it is the fact that we’ve got three and a half thousand fantastic
members who are talented, who are all ages, all stages in their career and if you think that
you’ve got a recruitment target or you’ve got someone in your organization wrongly saying we
need more diverse candidates and we can come on to that later if you like, around quotas and
targets, if you’ve got someone shouting at then we are the honey pot army that you want to
come to and that is not why we exist.
We are not here to push our members out as a sort of talent pot that you can dip in and out of
this as you need resource. That is not what we are here for. But at the same time, we’re more
than happy to bring our members along and then you can recruit them and talk to them about
how fantastic your organization is if it truly is fantastic 365 days a year.
[0:21:59.7] BOK: Okay that is an excellent segue to you mentioned quotas and things but the
broader question then is what makes an organization fantastic 365 days a year? How would you
actually measure that or be able to see that in an organization?
[0:22:14.4] CH: That is a good question. That absolutely comes down to the individual. So if
you’ve got individuals in your organization, who can be - this notion of 100% themselves, their
authentic selves then you know that you are doing the right thing. If you’ve got individuals in
your organization who are to go back to that exercise, not giving a 100% of their effort to their
job because they are giving other efforts to lying and constricting stories because they don’t feel
they can be themselves, then that is not an excellent organization. We live in this day and age now where organizations aren’t judged to any more on that
performance than their bottom line their profit. They judged for how they treat their employees
and judged for how they’re regarded on their corporate social responsibility, how they engaged
in that procurement process, et cetera. Business is become far more awake to that whole end to
end cycle and it is no longer about reporting good profits to your stakeholders.
It is much, much more than that. So for me an excellent organization is an organization that is
ticking all of those boxes around being those whose responsible, being a great place to work,
being welcoming of all genders, sexualities, disabilities or whatever the diversity aspect needs
to be and of course, if they’re making a profit then fantastic
[0:23:31.1] ERIKA: Yeah, it is curious to me that you still get companies interested in your
“help” but they aren’t really interested in it maybe just for the social media aspect. Because
society is judging companies now by those other dimensions and not just profit. So it always
kind of dumbfounds me I guess that the way that some companies don’t want to change for real,
if that makes sense.
[0:23:54.9] CH: Absolutely and some of the statistics that I called out at the Umbraco of festival
where the richest in society stated that only 17% of tech specialists in the UK are women and
the LGBT+ engineers went into be repeatedly stated that there’s an underlying assumption that
they’ve got to be a heterosexual male to be good at development. I mean these notions and
these statistics still exist but of course, if you’ve got someone in a boardroom saying, “Well we
don’t want to be an organization that’s only got 17% of tech specialist that identify as women.”
Then you are going to get recruitment agendas saying, “We need more women or we need
more LGBT+ people.”
And of course, they are going to come to organizations like ourselves that have got three and a
half thousand members available for them and say, “Well we love to host an event” or do this,
etcetera because we’d love to recruit some of you and that’s fine. But we want to make sure that
our members should they choose to go and work in that organization can then be themselves
and can be truly authentic in what they’re delivering otherwise we have done them a disservice.
[0:25:01.7] BOK: So I started to ask about quotas and then it went off in a tangent but you
implied there that quotas are a bad idea. Have I read that correctly?
[0:25:10.1] CH: Yeah and this is probably the number one question that splits panels and
opinions whenever I go to diversity events. I personally think that quotas and targets are a
negative thing for organizations because I think they build a culture of trying to meet the target
much likely in the 80s and 90s of hitting KPIs and making sure your return of investment is
amazing and all of this. Quotas and targets are just manifested that in a different way.
So for me and I am sure you will agree, it is absolutely about hiring the right person for the right
job. So what the quickest and the most often retort on that or rebottle is that you’ll get
organizations saying, “Oh yes but we don’t get any women applying for our roles. We don’t get
any B.A.M.E.” Which is black, Asian, minority ethnicities, applying for our roles and the reason
for that if we go back to what I said earlier is because they don’t see any women or any black
people in the organization.
So they don’t identify, so they are not going to apply- it’s this notion of fishing and recruiters
giving you candidates that match that the current people within your organization. And that’s fine
if the organization is diverse and it’s got all of those people. But if you stretch that net out wider
then you are going to get whole bigger talent pool to pick from and you will probably find
someone who is better at the job but just doesn’t match the people working in your organization
[0:26:35.9] BOK: Yeah and that is the exact thing that everybody will say is that people don’t
apply. I mean recruitment is a difficult thing to do, right? There are so many different parts of it
from it as you say where the net is spread literary where we advertise and who or organizations
we approached to try and get people to apply then there is the actual details of things like
wording of job descriptions and job ads and job posts all the way through.
So it does feel like quotas is one of those - it is an easy thing to try and do to say, “Oh this is
solvable.” But if we don’t use quotas are there any specific things that organizations or teams
can look at to do instead?
[0:27:16.4] CH: Yeah, absolutely. I mean if you look away from this notion of quotas and targets
to get people into the role or into the organization there are things that your organization can be
doing internally that will in the long run ultimately make you attractive for diverse individuals.
So for example, a very trivial one but one I always mention is around policy and I know that
there are people listening going, “Oh he’s going to talk about policy.” But if you just make sure
that all of your internal documents, policy documents, things around HR are inclusive and an
example being an adoption policy that states a mother and father, I mean that is not inclusive.
So as a man in a relationship now, if we chose to adopt we’d both be fathers but if I read my
organization’s adoption policy and it indicates a mother and father then I am immediately not
feeling welcome and I may well chose to go back to my community and tell them, “Oh well this
organization has this.”
And that’s blocking diverse individuals than choosing to want to work in that organization
because they’re already on the back foot. On the flip side, have individuals within your company
also question things. So if you want to be that change or want to see people in your organization
being more welcome and being a diverse organization and if you are in an interview panel and it
is three men on the panel or if you are doing a sprint or an iteration and every celebration is in a
pub at the end of the week then question this.
And say what are the alternatives, what can we be doing this to make it a more welcome, more
inclusive process. And you’ll start to see these small changes within your organization that will
ultimately be having a positive effect and will, in the long run, improve your external image to
then open that door for more diverse individuals to come through and ultimately join the team.
[0:29:09.0] BOK: Yeah so I love that. I really got excited talking about sort of thinking about
long term a real change. I realize in my mind with that question about recruitment. I was still
thinking about the sort of external that I am trying to think of a new recruitment washing. A term
where I am just focusing on just that part of the thing as if I can somehow fix it by this sort of
external tiny change to the recruitment process. Rather than looking at much more
fundamentally of who we are in day to day and what we are doing which includes things like
[0:29:40.3] CH: Absolutely and how many adverts have you seen indicate things like I am a
flexible working hours but then when you get the draft contract through it, it prescribes hours. I
mean if you are a single parent looking at the children and you need to take them to school
every morning then that is an immediately blocker for you.
These things that might seem trivial to the person and write in their recruitment spill or pushing
them out, actually have a massive impact on people who are looking for that next step in their
career or to further or future themselves. And just making that one small change or just
rethinking something you’ve worded it and have a much, much bigger impact than you
[0:30:17.2] BOK: It also makes it more an easier mountain to climb, an easier challenge to take
on instead of thinking, “Oh, you know we need to get from where we are now to this mystical,
wonderfully diverse amazing team and we’re going to do it in five minutes.” It allows this mindset
gives me as a business owner a change to sort of think, “Well we can just go on this journey
rather than fighting.” We can just go on this journey to become genuinely who we intend or more
who we intend to be.
Rather than constantly fighting and trying to fix and - does that make sense? Kind of constantly
trying to climb a difficult thing rather than just genuinely looking at who we are?
[0:30:55.3] CH: Yeah absolutely and I mean that whole notion of being patient tiny steps
leading to big changes is what we’ve all been doing and what we all doing in our daily life. None
of us get a project or a client brief and say, “Okay we are going to deliver this in five days. We
know all of the detail,” we don’t. We elaborate it, we do discovery, we do some mark ups, we
push things out. We try, we test things. The whole concept in the developmental world being
agile is a perfect way of looking at embracing diversity within your organization.
And indeed, you look at some of these big corporates or some of the big finance houses that
have been the same - one of my favorite terms, ‘pale male’ environments for the last 20 years
and they’ve suddenly panicked and gone, “Gosh we need to change,” and they’ve tried to do
everything and it’s not succeeded. They probably have worsened the situation. Where it’s if they
said, “Oh well let’s start with a tiny step. Let us try to change this,” people will understand
because we are on that journey. And they would have probably been at a much better place now but they have gone for a big
bang and it hasn’t worked. And it also hasn’t worked with the people in the organization either
because they have gone from this stable culture that has existed since they were founded.
Suddenly having people running around waving rainbows and saying we need to host a
breakfast for let’s say a religious breakfast to celebrate a special day and they panicked and
thought, “Gosh what is happening in the organization? Do I now align with this?”
Whereas if it is little baby steps and little things changing then it would start to say, “Okay we’re
now being more inclusive, we are now embracing this and now I can start to embrace that as
[0:32:30.4] BOK: Yeah, that is really powerful. So just as we’re in the last little bit of the
conversation Chris, I’d be interested in your take on how we handle - within organizations how
you might want somebody to handle the difficult - the challenges. So perhaps an individual
who’s really fighting against some of the changes that are the inter-dimensional changes that
we’re talking about or perhaps conflict between two people with different backgrounds.
Is there something that you would say on how to deal with some of those difficult challenges
that kind of sometimes feel like they come from a move towards being more diverse?
[0:33:07.0] CH: Yeah, so there’s two ways and the first one unfortunately is probably not the
one you’re expecting but the first one is if you got something in your organization who is
deliberately being racist, homophobic, transphobic, whatever it so happens to be, then do you
really want them in your organization and that is a simple question but the person in that
position needs to ask themselves.
If we are going on a journey to become more diverse of bringing new exciting talent, who we
want to hold onto people who is onset and ways for looking at things are obtrusive to that and
therefore, un-open to change and that is the first way of looking. The second way is if you truly
believe that you can wake them up, open their eyes and you can tell them, “Look we’re all in this
together,” then things like the exercise I mentioned at the front is a nice way of putting them in
their shoes and asking that question but at the same time it is about relating to something in that
person’s life. We’re not all the same and that’s why we have this sort of luxury that we do with working in
diverse teams and the benefits that come with that but there are people who may well look at
scenarios and say, “Well this is not me and therefore I am against it.” But there will and I
guarantee be something unique and diverse about them and if you can understand that and if
you can pull that apart and say to them, “What it is your scenario not just the same as this but
with different factors.” Then that’s slowly a way of waking up people to it.
And I’ll give you a real world example. An organization I have worked with based in an eastern
European company was celebrating an employee who have been nominated for an award in the
LGBT+ community which is fantastic and they were very proud about it, in North America. The
organization was very pleased, Europe was very pleased but there was a few people within the
organization who were upset that that was being celebrated in the organization that was
traditionally from this Eastern European country.
What happened is it just took one person in a bit more of a position of leadership to immediately
challenge that person, publicly because the challenge was put out publicly and the entire culture
of that business unit shifted overnight. Because they saw that this was a change that needed to
happen. It was something that was long overdue. It may have been harboring these thoughts
internally and maybe thinking, “Gosh so we’re going to say something is someone not.”
But it took one person, just like them but with a different outlook to raise it in a positive sense
and we saw a shift overnight. And that is not to say it is going to happen in every organization
but it did happen. There is two ways of looking at it, you can either get them out of the
organization and think, “Okay deadwood, let’s move on. Let’s get someone new and exciting.”
or you can just give them something to provoke them or somebody to just say that we are in the
same boat but we are looking at this differently and they will change that way.
[0:35:52.6] BOK: Yeah that does make sense. Not that I have experienced anything that
extreme but one thing connecting or that I connect with what you are saying by the positive
story there, sometimes even just within our team having a conversation where maybe a couple
of years ago when I would have found it difficult to bring up some of these topics, every time I
do that I get inspired – amazing, the surprises and the sort of inspiration you get from as people
get interested and engaged with things that are topics or like I am really looking forward to trying the little exercise that you started that talk with and we started this conversation with within the
team because I know that they will inspire and - the conversation will interest me and what their
feedback will inspire me which is really cool.
[0:36:39.1] CH: Absolutely and also a notion of working in something like an agency where you
perhaps on always on the same place at the same time means that organizations should be
proud about things. They should shout it out. There are some amazing initiatives out there,
some amazing rankings like the Tech Talent Charter, the Financial Times Outstanding List.
There’s of course the Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index.
If an organization is on one of those be it the smallest agency in West London or be it a big
corporate in some amazing offices in Canary Wharf, they should be shouting about it being
public about it because there are people in the organization that will just be getting on with their
job and you won’t necessarily be in tune with what’s going on in the wider community of their
organization. If they happen to in the train in the morning come across a tweet that mentions
that their agency has just been nominated as a top place for women to work or they happen to
stumble cross the Financial Times and see that one of their colleagues has been nominated as
one of the top 50 future leaders then those tiny things - to go back to that notion although
massive within the organization will slowly start to change that and that is exciting. That is
exciting both for the individual to say, “Gosh, I didn’t realize we were doing this and that’s
incredible, I am so pleased to work here.” But it is also exciting for the organization.
To say, “Look we are on this journey now and we’re delivering some real value from where
we’re only going to go to better places.”
[0:37:59.1] BOK: And I think that unfortunately, a little positive note to finish on that. We are
running out of time. I’d love to keep going with these topics forever. I always feel like I could go
on for twice as long as we can.
[0:38:09.7] ERIKA: Yeah, they are pretty great, definitely learning something every time.
[0:38:13.8] BOK: Thank you so much Chris. Just before we go, for our listeners who want to
find out a little bit more about you and the work that Inter Tech do, where can we point them?
[0:38:20.3] CH: Absolutely. So the best way is to look at our website. So intertechlgbt.com or
Twitter @intertechlgbt. That’s our most active. If you are into animated GIFs and want to find out
about all of our events then that is the place to be. We’d love to hear from you.
[0:38:34.3] BOK: Excellent and as usual, we’ll put links to that and everything that we talked
about today on happyporchradio.com. Thank you so much Chris. Thanks Erika.
[0:38:41.2] ERIKA: Thank you.
[0:38:41.7] CH: Thank you.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[0:38:48.5] BOK: You can get all the links and notes from this episode on happyporchradio.com
where you can also find out how to send us questions, feedback and get involved in the
conversation about this series.
If you enjoyed the show, please share with anyone else who might enjoy it too. Thanks for
Chris is a Senior Analyst at EPAM Systems where his passion for digital transformation and the exciting change it can bring to organisations is called into play daily when working with clients across the globe.
Recently, he has been focused on delivering projects in the payments and banking space, as well as remaining on top of the fast-evolving world of IoT.
He is a true advocate of diversity and inclusion and passionate about driving positive change for LGBT+ people. He co-leads ‘Intertech LGBT+ Diversity Forum’ - an organisation dedicated to promoting LGBT+ diversity in the UK tech sector and sits on the ‘British Army’s LGBT Forum’ - last year Chris was named one of the Top 10 Corporate Rising Stars in the British LGBT Awards.
He is Governor for a trio of primary schools, mentor for LGBT+ future leaders and a very doting owner of Lily, his French Bulldog.
Tune in to find out:
- Some background to Chris and his work at Intertech.
- The work done at Intertech and how this is expanding currently.
- The diversity exercise Chris used in his talk at a conference recently.
- Individual roles in transformation within a company structure.
- Allies, role models and the spectrum of meanings.
- The ongoing mission that Intertech is on to live out and exemplify their values.
- Intertech’s events and how they go about their mission.
- ‘Pink- washing’ and the measures Intertech take to create more sustainable change.
- What makes an excellent and strong organisation?
- The contentious issue of quotes and targets.
- Chris’s iterative alternative solution to the issue of transformation.
- Using the tech based concept of agility as a means towards diversity.
- Two ways to approach conflict and people resistant to change.
- And much more!