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Why Fujitsu is putting diversity and inclusion front and centre

22 Oct 2020 By Eleanor Whitehouse

The tech giant has been focusing on closing its gender pay gap and overhauling its culture to iron out the industry’s historic imbalances

Picture an average technology sector workforce, and chances are you’re imagining a group of men. Probably white, probably middle-aged, and probably wearing shirts and ties. As a historically male-dominated industry, it’s no surprise, then, that, according to a report by PwC, just 5 per cent of leadership positions in tech are held by women, and only 3 per cent of female students say a career in the field is their first choice. Analysis of gender pay data by Mercer also puts the sector’s gap at a huge 25 per cent in favour of men. But although there are still inequalities – of course far wider than gender – many firms are trying to do something about it.

Fujitsu is one of them. The Japanese IT equipment and services provider’s efforts towards better diversity and inclusion in its UK operations have seen it achieve what seems like every credential going. As well as appearing in The Times Top 50 Employers for Women every year since 2018, the firm has been awarded the government’s highest Disability Confident accreditation, been named as one of Stonewall’s 2020 Top 100 Employers for LGBT inclusion, is ranked in the 2019 Top 75 Employers for Social Mobility by the Social Mobility Foundation and has signed up to the Race at Work Charter. But it’s arguably its work to achieve a 50/50 balance of men and women within the organisation – and eradicate the gender pay gap – where it’s seen the most change. 

The company is particularly focused on the areas where women have been “historically less represented”, says its head of diversity, inclusion and wellbeing, Kelly Metcalf – and that means senior leadership roles, as well as technical and sales. Even though gender pay gap reporting requirements were suspended for 2020 amid the Covid pandemic, Fujitsu chose to publish its data because it “helps us understand whether what we’re doing is really making a difference”, says Metcalf. The firm reported a four percentage point drop in its figure for median hourly pay, down to 11.6 per cent in favour of men – its most significant annual decrease to date.

But achieving consistent reductions takes a raft of initiatives. “There’s a comprehensive set of things we can do to make sure we’re more attractive to women as a place to work, and that we support female colleagues’ career development,” says Metcalf. “But there’s not one simple answer – it’s a culture change.” 

Part of this list is a focus on gender-diverse recruitment, involving training all managers in unconscious bias, having gender-diverse interview panels and advertising roles with options for flexible working wherever possible. The firm also recently removed the qualifying service requirement for employees to be able to submit a flexible working request. “We’ve seen flexible working really come to the fore in the last few months,” she adds. “That’s been essential to support so many of our colleagues with their work and life commitments – and not just women.”

Support for female staff once they’re in the organisation is equally extensive: Fujitsu offers online mentoring programmes for both junior employees entering management roles and more experienced staff joining senior management, as well as an active women’s business network. But what really helps Metcalf underpin this vital work is using data to prove its worth. “I’m a passionate believer in the importance of a combination of human insight and data,” she says. “Those two things combined are really powerful.”

For example, Fujitsu’s recruitment partners are assessed quarterly to ensure they are putting forward a sufficiently diverse mix of candidates for vacancies. And Metcalf can also access measures to indicate women’s experiences at the firm, including whether attrition rates are higher for female staff, or to compare the progression of women and men. The ability to back up initiatives with strong data, she says, removes the emotion from certain topics: “Talking about the gender pay gap might alienate male employees but, by looking at the numbers, we turn it from a potentially divisive discussion into something more fact based.”

And Fujitsu’s work in other areas of diversity and inclusion is just as thorough. As with the gender pay gap, the company is aiming to be an early adopter of ethnicity pay gap reporting when it’s rolled out. Similarly to most organisations, the Black Lives Matter movement acted as a “catalyst” for the business to reflect on whether it was doing enough on racial equality. It has since run a series of employee-led roundtable events with senior leaders via its cultural diversity network, looking at how it can improve the experiences of ethnic minority staff. The firm also boasts several well-established staff D&I networks, including for LGBT+ and disabled employees, which each has an executive sponsor to create a “voice at the table”. 

With the extra challenges posed by the events of 2020, it appears Metcalf’s work is far from over. The Covid lockdown has, she says, been another lesson in inclusion, with focus needed on digital accessibility to implement successful home working for 90 per cent of the organisation’s almost 7,000 UK employees, as well as pulse surveys revealing that the remaining 10 per cent of staff who were mobile or remained on site were far less happy. “That helped us recognise that it wasn’t ‘one size fits all’, so those staff now receive focused comms and help,” she says. “Our engagement score jumped 11 percentage points to 72 per cent in July – we hope that means people are feeling supported regardless of their work location.”

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