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Gloucestershire Business News

How can diversity drive business growth?

The question posed to tech businesses was 'how do you achieve a more diverse workforce to drive growth?' And it was a question which filled the room this morning (May 21).

As Gloucestershire heads towards the title of UK cyber capital, on the coat-tails of a major development pending for Cheltenham (the new cyber park), how to recruit more talent into the tech sector is clearly a major issue.

Companies from across the county gathered in the shadow of GCHQ at an event supported by the National Cyber Security Centre (a part of GCHQ) and the University of Gloucestershire to tackle how the fast-emerging sector can reap the benefits of being more diverse in its recruitment.

The phrase 'politically correct' was never even mentioned. This was a frank look at how business could drive growth through embracing diversity in the workplace.

It was about how companies learn to can open their doors to what many in the room involved in recruitment believe to be an army of untapped talent - women, hugely underrepresented in the sector. But it also touched on race and special educational needs.

A high-powered panel included Baroness Rennie Fritchie, chancellor of the University of Gloucestershire, Michael Vermeersch, digital inclusion lead, Microsoft, Mike Spain, founder and chair, Cyber Neurodiversity Group, Dr Nick Moore, director of Library, technology and information service at the University of Gloucestershire and Lexie Papaspyrou, diversity and inclusion and Tech Talent consultant.

Chairing the Tech Talent-organised event was Debbie Forster, MBE. Partners also included the Bath-based industry group The Institute of Coding.

"This is about inclusion and diversity, but we will start with gender. We want to know how we can support businesses to help them employ more women across the board," said Ms Forster, chief executive officer of Tech Talent Charter.

"Solving this problem will have huge benefits. What the companies already on board with our Tech Talent Charter are saying is the pipeline is broken. We are taking time to explain why diversity issues continue, we want to talk about what we can do to change."

The 75 business people who attended also heard from Baroness Fritchie, whose own journey from a Scottish council estate and single parent poverty to Government advisor and consultant on matters of diversity spoke volumes.

Companies already on board include - and signed up to the Tech Talent Charter - include such major names as the BBC, Lloyds Bank and Sky.

In the room were such Gloucestershire heavyweights as BAE Systems (which employs 300 staff at its Brockworth base) and wealth management firm St James's Place.

The aim of the event was to share best practice for recruiting and retaining diverse talent and bring companies together to find solutions for the sector.

Its aim was to focus on practical solutions and equip delegates with "a toolkit of ideas and strategies" and connect them with others in Gloucestershire and beyond working to tackle the same issues.

The event took place at the Cotswold Area Civil Service Sports Association on Tewkesbury Road, Cheltenham.

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