International Women's Day 2022 - Thoughts from the Tillo team

Posted on 8 March 2022 Read time 8 mins
Author Natasha Hemmings

The theme of this International Women’s Day is #BreakTheBias. The organisers of IWD ask us to imagine a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive - where difference is valued and celebrated. 

There’s no doubt that there have been significant advances in gender equality in the last couple of decades. But we’re certainly not there yet. A recent World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report revealed that gender equality will not be attained for 95+ years which is a sobering thought. We can always be doing more to achieve equality sooner. 

But this is not just a women’s issue; as a society as a whole, equality is something that we need to continue working towards. We all need to ensure that women - and other underrepresented groups - have a seat at the table. 

At Tillo we’re passionate about creating equal opportunities; but we know we’re not perfect. We asked our team some questions to get them thinking about equality on International Women’s Day this year. Here’s what they had to say. 


How can leaders ensure equality in their teams? 

"Don't just give seats at the table, listen to them too. You should have a diverse leadership team because you want the experience, opinions and ideas from a broad perspective, not as a tick box exercise. Provide training, there's lots of buzzwords going round at the moment. Help people understand what they mean and the role they play in the bigger picture." Hannah Saunders, People Business Partner

"First acknowledge that the modern office workplace and its routines were created and designed to suit only people with no child caring duties. And then to help progressively evolve it to offer flexibility in schedules and accommodate a wider diversity of contributors." Oskar Holm, Senior Data Scientist

"By leading by example. Leaders should ensure that the leadership team is itself diverse and promotes equality. Training should be available, especially around unconscious bias and communication/feedback skills. It’s important to create an environment where people can speak honestly and openly." Greg Youngman, Scrum Master

"Equality (and diversity) is very important in teams, and coming from a product team perspective I feel it is vital. The creation and development of any product is hugely enhanced by having a team of different genders, backgrounds and perspectives. This is because a lot of digital products are built for a wide variety of people so a team that is more representative of your customers clearly is an advantage. There are countless examples of products that have clearly not had this in their teams and the products reflect that deficiency. Just read Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Perez for some examples. 

To foster equality, a great place to start in my opinion is in the wording of your job advertisements. Unconscious bias can easily slip into the wording even in the most open-minded of people, no matter how much we don’t want to believe it. Without realising you can actually alienate a big proportion of potential hires before you have even started. This means the pool of talent you are hiring from is much smaller than it should be. Then when assessing your candidates, really look for people who not only have the skills to do the job but also who can bring something different in terms of perspective. And I mean you should actively seek this. It’s not easy but it is genuinely worth the effort." Eddie Sawyers, Chief Product Officer


As a woman in tech, what challenges have you faced? How did you overcome these challenges? 

"I discovered software development after university. I'd always been fascinated by web technology and had messed around building websites before then but during some down time after graduating I discovered web application development for the first time, teaching myself how to write code with tutorials from the internet - I loved it. My break into the industry came a couple of years later when a growing tech agency took a chance on me and hired me as a developer. I was a novice but I learnt so much so quickly, particularly once I had real-world projects to work on.

My personal path into the tech industry has always been about following what I enjoyed doing most. I think the challenges I've faced are mostly around pressures I may have put on myself, especially in the early days to "know everything" (this is never going to be possible!), and also building confidence and belief in my own abilities. I stayed in my first tech job for 9 years. When I ultimately moved on to a role at a new company, it was a leap of faith, time to see if I could be a successful software developer outside of the company that had nurtured me from novice. Thankfully I found my feet quite quickly, but the fear was real!" Naomi Gotts, Senior Software Engineer


"Being a woman in tech can be tough but I think it can also be difficult being a woman in a number of other industries as well. Over the years I have come up against a number of challenges in the workplace especially since becoming a working mum - these challenges mostly revolve around the inability to be granted flexible working and part time hours. 

I have also undervalued my ability and worth in the past - something that I think a number of us are guilty of, particularly in what is often a male-dominated industry. It has taken time and a CEO that has shown trust and belief in my experience and skills for me to start believing in myself, for which I am grateful." Hannah Dempster, Head of Marketing


"Being a mum and feeling the need to overwork to 'prove' I was worth the role I was in was exhausting. I have to work hard to not apologise for being a mum and the challenge that can sometimes bring. I am a work in progress - I am good at offering advice to others but not so kind to myself. I have a brilliant supportive SLT but there is still so much work to do on myself to stop feeling like I have something to prove - or rather more to prove." Briony Robertson, Head of People


What advice would you give to other women wanting to get into the tech industry? 

"As a woman working in tech I've always been welcomed, supported and respected in my role, however we are still very much in the minority. For me the path to improving diversity in general within the tech industry is about making people aware that a career in tech might be right for them. This can apply to both those mid-career and wanting a career pivot but also very much about causing a shift much earlier in life. 

By teaching all young people about coding, logical thinking and problem solving early on in their education we will ensure they are armed with the information they need to decide if it's for them or not. I feel convinced that many people are put off pursuing a career in software engineering because they see it as a mathematical science. In my opinion that disguises the truth - it's actually an incredibly creative industry, using logic and often common sense to solve everyday problems using tech." Naomi Gotts, Senior Software Engineer


"Be the change you want to see. Don’t allow yourself or others to be seen as second class, support other women and champion them. Encourage the junior women in your team because they will be the change we need. And educate your children - don’t let bias continue." Briony Robertson, Head of People


"For women - and all people interested in dev. - organisations like codebar can help you move from non-technical roles into dev." Alex Marshall, Software Engineer


"Just dive in and start learning; pick a company or companies that interest you and learn how they work and what they do. You don’t have to be a technology genius to get in, you just need to understand how the business works and how your skills could fit - for example, in my team - Operations, we’re always looking for people with a strong background of customer service, problem solving, project management and the ability to confidently communicate with any type of customer and adapt to a variety of different situations." Maria Khoury, Operations Manager

"Apply. Apply. Apply. The language used in job ads can be very discouraging and male focused - women are less likely to apply to a role if they don't have all the essential criteria, whereas their male counterpart will apply even if they have most of it." Hannah Saunders, People Business Partner


Which woman do you aspire and look up to most and why? 

"I worked with a lady from the Customer Service Excellence board, Jamilah Lowton -  while working on a previous certification, ’ - she had this way of walking into our business with confidence and good humour, and getting to the bones of the business effortlessly. She just had this real fluid and flexible approach, a sharp eye for detail, left no stone unturned but all done with a real personable and calm attitude. I’d always thought I’d like to go into business consultancy once I’ve got a few more years experience under my belt, and she’s definitely someone I’d class as a role model for how I’d want to be." Maria Khoury, Operations Manager


"Michelle Obama. Absolute Queen. Her public speaking ability is something I really aspire to. Her book 'Becoming' is an absolute must-read and a reminder that we can all become whoever we want and we’re always evolving!" Hannah Saunders, People Business Partner


"There are so many women I look up to and I couldn’t include them all so here are a few: Malala Yousefzai for championing education for girls, Margaret Atwood for introducing me to feminist literature, and Serena Williams for her determination, body positivity and her ambition to inspire other women - 'Every woman’s success should be an inspiration to another.'” Natasha Hemmings, Content Marketing Manager  


How does Tillo support diversity, equality and inclusion? 

Briony Robertson, Head of People shares how Tillo is working towards gender diversity, equality and inclusion: 

  • We write our job adverts to try and avoid any gender bias
  • We are planning to add a diversity (anonymous) screening form to our new hiring platform
  • We are members of Diverse Sussex and educate ourselves on the current challenges
  • We don't ask questions that could lead to bias in the interview process
  • We actively placed females in the SLT to ensure a diverse range of voices for the business


"I love the BreaktheBias theme of this year’s International Women’s Day. As a business it's really important that we celebrate and support diversity, equality and inclusion. I'm really proud that just this week we updated and extended our Family Leave policy, meaning that working mums (and dads) feel more supported by us. Each year IWD gives us time to reflect on all of the incredible women doing fantastic things, not only within Tillo, but across the sector as a whole, of which there are many." Alex Preece, CEO


"We are introducing management training this year and we will ensure we include DEI in this, so managers feel equipped to ensure they are championing this. We will also look at how we can improve our recruitment to be more diverse and inclusive. Reviewing our job descriptions so that we are encouraging  a broad range of applicants." Hannah Saunders, People Business Partner


"When recruiting, I’m always looking for someone who’s going to bring something new to the team, it’s not just about the best skills match but finding those people who have a different story to tell about their life before they applied for the role. I still hear of employers who will turn down candidates because they’ve had big gaps in their CVs because they went travelling or started a family or tried a new venture that had nothing to do with the role they’ve ended up applying for. At Tillo, we love to hear that story and it opens up conversations with some unique and incredible candidates that may otherwise get missed!" Maria Khoury, Operations Manager


How can we all lift each other up? 

"Publicly recognising when someone’s done something amazing, and on the flip side, calling out any behaviours or language that go against our values. Having a culture that supports this. Knowing that our words are powerful, even the way we talk about each other and our customers too is important. 

Encourage diversity through appreciation that the bigger the mix of backgrounds and variety of voices in the team; we can make sure we’re never stuck in an echo chamber of thoughts and beliefs - that we can create a business where we embrace different opinions and ways of working that will benefit a more diverse range of both employees and customers alike."
Maria Khoury, Operations Manager


"Be open to failure and discussions about mistakes, and support each other's learning and growth. For some, topics of equality and diversity are complete mindset changes challenging the status quo of their socio-cultural-economic backgrounds, and whilst this is never an excuse we have to be open and supportive for people to change and learn and grow.

Oh, and read bell hooks, she will change your life. All men should read The Will to Change, Men, Masculinity & Love. It really did change my life and how I see the world." Greg Youngman, Scrum Master


"Be allies. Learn from each other, ask questions." Hannah Saunders


"Always remember that kind words can go a very long way - especially if someone is just starting out in their career and lacking in confidence. Be encouraging and give constructive, actionable feedback or offer mentorship. Ask yourself how you can lift up those around you and help them to achieve their goals. When we lift up others around us, we win ourselves too." Natasha Hemmings, Content Marketing Manager


"It’s important to let people know we see the problems and want to address them. We’ve not perfect but we keep trying and keep the conversation open." Briony Roberson, Head of People


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