Today marks 100 years since Parliament passed the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act which allowed women to become Members of Parliament for the first time. This was a logical outcome of the law passed earlier in 1918, which allowed some women, and all men, to vote for the first time.
Allowing women to vote and sit as an MP was clearly an important step towards equal rights for all (although it wasn’t until 1928 that women would have equal voting rights with men). It was also an early stride in the drive for diversity in the workplace, especially once Nancy Astor became the first woman to sit as an MP in the House of Commons, in 1919.
Now we have a female prime minister, and 209 out of 650 MPs are women, which is not bad in the grand scheme of things. It’s certainly better than the tech sector where the proportion of women sadly remains around 16%.
As a digital design consultancy, Clearleft sits within both the tech and design sectors. According to recent Design Council research, 22% of the UK’s design workforce are female - compared with 47% of women in the wider UK workforce.
Not so long ago Clearleft was made up mostly of men, roughly in-line with aforementioned design industry statistics. We now have slightly more women than men on staff, including a 50/50 split on our leadership team.
Organisations with equal representation of genders perform better – and design always benefits from diverse opinion and experiences. Therefore, it was clear we needed to recruit more women. I don’t believe we were ever particularly blokey in terms of sexist attitudes, and brogrammer culture has always been anathema to us, however we were obviously doing something to put off female applicants as we received very few responses from women to our job ads.
We worked hard to change the way we recruited, starting by removing any mention of ‘rockstars’, ‘play hard/work hard’, and other inadvertently macho sentiments, which can be off-putting to men as well as women. We hosted groups such as Ladies that UX. We also focussed our job ads on the values which have always been here – and appeal to all genders – those of work/life balance, flexible working, meaningful work and a supportive environment.
I’m really pleased our fantastic team is now made up of men and women in roughly equal proportion. But we can’t rest on our laurels – there’s always more work to be done in refining our culture and behaviour to make it accessible to all; for promoting role models in society; and for attracting a workforce diverse in ways other than gender.
If you want to get involved with the 100 year celebrations of women getting the vote, you can find more information at Vote 100.