Breaking down barriers to inclusion

how ThoughtWorks UK exceeded 40% women and non-binary people in tech roles

Head of Diversity & Inclusion (UK)

I work with leaders and technologists in our business and also outside our business to help people understand how we can make our technology industry more safe for everybody.

Global business with a local presence


  • 5000+ employees
  • 41 offices in 14 countries
  • started 25 years ago in a basement in Chicago

We care about software excellence and we push very hard on this.

We also care about social justice.

one of the core values: Battling the world through software.

If we can build diverse and inclusive teams that means we can have successful businesses.

UK: 17% tech jobs occupied by women

Globally inside ThoughtWorks: 38% of technologists are women

However, it goes much, much deeper than diversity in gender and race …

Diversity is being invited to the party; including is being asked to dance

– Verna Myers, author in America that does a lot around inclusion

It is about inclusion: make sure people don’t leave because they don’t feel included.

pre-career: childhood - school - college/uni

  • influences
  • biases: boy blue, lego; dolls or pink for girls; caribbean and black families think that the best career is accountant, advocate or doctor, technology? no
  • stereotypes

how to counter: grassroots programmes => introduce tech to children

career: graduates - early - mid - late

  • imposter syndrome: widely felt by minority communities; you don’t deserve to be there, one day people will find out
  • micro aggressions: very very very small things that happen incredibly regularly and not on purpose
  • unconscious bias
  • pay inequality

how to counter: visible role models; flexible work models; support systems (groups of under-represented people); equal pay & opportunity; inclusive company culture; leadership development

head of technology in US: a woman, she pulled all of this together based on her experience

Inspire the next generation

Asked a 10 year old girl how an IT person looks like.

  • overgrown hair because he doesn’t care what he looks like, he only cares about computers
  • IT = suits = boring

both drawings are a man

CodeClub: global initiative for ages 9-13


88.000 unfilled tech jobs over Europe

Be aware of micro aggressions

might be verbal, behavioural

speaking over someone in a meeting, not giving credit to a person

=> amplify: as that person said … or make sure everyone knows about the project that person is working on

getting someone’s name wrong over and over and over again without the intention to correct themselves, don’t apology “I can’t pronounce your name so I will call you like this”

=> try harder

team building in a steak house and someone is vegetarian

team building that involves drinking alcohol: people might not want to drink alcohol (religion, health, pregnancy, …)

development manager wants to talk about a project and comes in, and walks passed the most senior person that happens to be a woman, and goes straight to a man because men speak technology.

=> say: look she actually knows more about this, you better talk with her

“Hey guys”:

=> all, they, people, folks, peeps => retrain your brain to not use guys

Tackle your Biases

Unconscious bias = the way your brain works

everyone in the room has bias, and this is ok

when you are talking about a developer, do you assume it is a man => you say he

=> conditioned to make associations

the assumption that a woman in a meeting should take the notes, or book the meeting or clean up the meeting room

the assumption that a more junior person could not add something valuable into the conversation

Two Systems of Thinking

  • system one: fast brain - processing and memory of emotional reactions, especially fear
  • system two: slow brain - this where you can control your biases because you can control your brain

you are not responsible for your first thought, but you are responsible for your second.

Be an Ally

An ally recognises that, though they are not a member of a marginalised group(s), they make a concerted effort to better understand the struggle.

To summarise

  • inspire the next generation
  • beware of micro aggressions
  • tackle your biases
  • be an ally

Be courageous, open, committed to learning and comfortable with being uncomfortable.

– Yewe Ige, ThoughtWorks


  • What about ageing in tech?

when men start to get older, they start to feel they are not included any more

=> inclusion is everybody’s problem

ThoughtWorks: average age: 37 in UK, average in UK: 40

works in both direction: people who look young are not taken seriously

  • Language when giving feedback: male vs female

female: teen energy, care, …

male: getting things done, serious, …

=> Implicit Association Test