Last week, Lorien partnered with Nationwide Building Society to discuss women in technology and their mission to build a diverse business. We were joined by Nicole Hardiman, an Engineering Manager looking after Nationwide’s engineering teams, Praji Purushottaman, a self-proclaimed hard core technologist at the forefront of some of the Society’s most innovative technologies, and Bhavit Panchmatia, a tech recruitment business partner working onsite at Nationwide as part of our recruitment delivery (read more here).
We started by looking at why getting more women into tech matters.
Women in tech
Even though women make up 49% of the UK’s workforce, only 19% of women work in tech, and just 22% of tech directors are female. For a long time, there has been a call to redress the balance, but despite initiatives, formal D&I targets and greater emphasis on STEM education, the gap is still a tough one to close. Even at Nationwide, where female intake is above the industry average (last month it was 25%), there is recognition that more must be done.
Nicole explained that diversity of thought and inclusivity is really important to Nationwide. Around half its members are female and as a result it’s important that their views are represented. She believes that if you’re making products for society, it should be built by people that reflect its make-up, otherwise you can miss things.
Praji added that this was particularly important when you looked at the role of tech in building products – unbalanced teams will build biased AI, and that can be a big problem.
So, what did our speakers think would encourage more women into the sector?
Banishing stereotypes and boosting mobility
According to Praji, the stereotype that you need to be technically minded or good at STEM to pursue a career in tech needs to be met head on. Working in tech also requires creativity and innovation, and with so many roles in tech, there’s something for every skillset. Bhavit added that worrying about meeting entry requirements was a key barrier for women. In Bhavit’s experience, women were reluctant to apply for roles unless they met 100% of the criteria.
“Working in tech also requires creativity and innovation, and with so many roles in tech, there’s something for every skillset.”
As a result, Bhavit said he always likes to clarify what skills in roles are mandatory and what can be learnt. Nationwide is on a journey to transform their technology to support its 15 million members and are seeking technologists that want to be a part of the journey and learn and develop too. For Bhavit, someone doesn’t have to meet 100% of the criteria, they just have to be 100% committed to developing what they need.
Our speakers also agreed that as well as removing barriers to entry, it’s important for women to be given equal opportunities to progress once in the organisation. After all, you can’t be what you can’t see. Nicole said that something she really appreciates about Nationwide is its open and honest culture. It meant that she was able to progress at the Society within six months of joining, as she was given the opportunity to get stuck in and show where she could add value.
Both Nicole and Praji are also part of Nationwide’s mentoring scheme. The scheme partners people across the business to support internal career mobility; people can choose their own mentor, and this can be either cross-discipline or within your own department. Nicole has worked with someone outside of engineering to get a wider perspective on the Society, while Praji selected a mentor currently working in a career path she’s interested in.
Why is Nationwide a great place to be if you’re working in technology right now?
Lastly, we asked our attendees why they thought Nationwide would be a great place to work in tech.
For Bhavit, it was the volume of opportunity. Nationwide have committed to a multi-billion technology strategy over the coming years which will prime the business for the next phase of innovation. As a result, there’s an opportunity for practically all tech skills and an environment where people are able to shape the outcome of the Society’s future.
As a result, Bhavit urged anyone considering a tech role at Nationwide to reach out to him. Even if they haven’t seen a role that fits their skillsets yet, chances are that Nationwide’s huge recruitment drive needs them.
For Nicole, one of the most exciting things about working at Nationwide was getting to work on cutting-edge tech, and this was echoed by Praji. Both emphasised Nationwide’s journey to transform from a financial services business underpinned by tech, to a tech minded business that does finance. Nicole said this made Nationwide a really exciting place to work, and it was the opportunity to work with emerging tech that first attracted her to work at the Society.
But Nicole was also drawn to the brand. Nationwide has a strong social purpose and a great reputation in the local community. Ethics is at the heart of the business and this is exemplified by every person in the Society. Nationwide is a mutual which means they have no shareholders, so everything is done for the benefit of Nationwide’s members and the communities in which they serve, making it a very socially driven place to work.
Praji agreed, saying that Nationwide is an organisation with a soul. She said that outsiders might see Nationwide as a traditional financial services institution, but the reality is that it is a very progressive, tech-first business that has been at the forefront of digital innovation. And that makes it a really exciting place to be.
Are you looking for your next opportunity in tech? Are you interested in joining a business on an ambitious tech transformation journey, that can give you the platform to take your career in any direction that you want? And do you want a business that you can feel proud to work for, with a social mission you really believe in? Contact Bhavit at Bhavit.Panchmatia@nationwide.co.uk about opportunities at the world’s largest building society and the UK’s second fastest growing digital banking provider.