There is no 'quick fix' when it comes to ED&I in the tech industry - or any industry for that matter - and we're thankful for that.
We don't want senior managers to cut corners or rush processes when it comes to equality and equity and neither should they. Hannah Grinsted beautifully sums this up in this week's Women Rock interview with Women Rock founder Alicia Teagle.
Hannah's insight into ED&I is incredible, stemming from her HR experience in many different industries and her volunteer work with Pregnant Then Screwed who exist to reduce the penalties women face when they become mothers.
This interview is a must-read for start-ups, scale-ups and leading brands alike who want to take a real look at their culture and ask the tricky questions about what they can do better.
Read on to have your mind blown and expanded at the same time!
I AM A BELIEVER THAT TO IMPROVE ED&I WITHIN AN ORG IT NEEDS TO COME FROM MANAGEMENT, BUT 9 TIMES OUT OF 10 IT FALLS TO THE PEOPLE OR HR TEAM – MOST OF WHOM ARE WOMEN. BUT IT’S A JOINT EFFORT, RIGHT? YOU HAVE WORKED IN HR, PEOPLE AND CULTURE ROLES FOR A WHILE AND I’M SURE YOU HAVE SEEN A LOT, WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE AND HOW DID YOU OVERCOME IT?
The biggest challenge I have faced has been to call out the day-to-day actions of a Senior Leadership team. People often like the idea of diversity but struggle with it if it means making them change the way they do things or the status quo.
Working in high-growth start-ups means they want to move quickly, which means relying on normal habits and patterns of behaviour. Asking leaders to step back and do things differently can feel like you’re putting up blockers, stopping them from doing things which they feel are harmless.
To really create something different you must proactively strive for it, it doesn’t just happen, and the small cumulative behaviours can count for more than the big extravagant ones. Confronting that can feel uncomfortable. Overcoming this means you must have high-trust relationships and a culture of feedback for this to work. But also, I’m more ruthless in not working with people who don’t want to create change, even if they say they do.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR CURRENT THINKING ABOUT DIVERSITY, AND HOW HAS YOUR THINKING CHANGED OVER TIME?
There has historically been a lot of individualism, if you try hard enough, ask for something in the right way, and present yourself in the right way then you’ll ‘make it’. For women’s advancement this has been showcased through the ‘Lean In’ movement. I’ve been learning a lot more about the deep and unseen systems, beliefs and structures that are at play and have a huge impact.
For a long time, people thought that women didn’t ask for pay rises as often, which is why they didn’t get them. But recent research has shown that women ask for a pay rise just as often as men but are 25% less likely to get one. It’s lit an even brighter flame in my passion for organisation and culture design. How we consciously create our businesses, ways of working and frameworks for decision-making can create real change.
WHAT KINDS OF EXPERIENCES HAVE YOU HAD IN RELATING WITH PEOPLE WHOSE BACKGROUNDS ARE DIFFERENT FROM YOUR OWN?
Working in different industries has given me exposure to so many different people and backgrounds, across financial services, retail, manufacturing, construction, tech, charities, healthcare etc. For me, the most important thing is to ask questions to seek to understand. So many people ask questions to confirm what they think, rather than challenge assumptions they already held.
And diversify the information you consume! I actively choose to read, follow, and engage with people and creators who are women, neurodivergent, disabled, black and other minority groups.
CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR VOLUNTEER WORK WITH PREGNANT THEN SCREWED?
PTS are an absolute force! They exist to create radical change to reduce the penalties women face when they become mothers.
It’s something that I feel so passionately about. I’ve found that my career has materially changed since having my 2 daughters, it’s impacted people’s perception of my ability and the opportunities I’ve had.
I’ve been able to confidentially navigate this because I know my rights, from working in HR. Not everyone has this knowledge, or access to it in their immediate circles. So, I volunteer for PTS on their helpline for pregnant women and mothers every week. I can give women the knowledge and confidence to challenge the treatment they are facing at work, which feels awesome.
WE SPOKE ABOUT FINDING YOUR TRIBE AND YOU HAVE FOUND THAT IN YOUR PERSONAL LIFE BUT NOW LOOKING TO FIND IT IN YOUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE TOO. ANY ADVICE FOR PEOPLE WHO WANT TO FIND THEIR TRIBE?
Something I’m still working on! The best connections I’ve made with like-minded people have been connecting without an immediate purpose or ask, and being my authentic self.
Networking based on interests and offering generously with your time and knowledge. The more we build others up, the more they build us.
I very much believe in community over competition, sharing ideas, passing on work to others and creating goodwill, goes a long way. Pretty much all my work comes from within my network, not cold calling, or cold reach outs. Having a tribe and community is so important, for building my work but also in bringing joy to my work.
I FOUND IT FASCINATING TO FIND OUT ABOUT THE PENSION GAP, AND HOW 70% OF BRITAIN’S HOMELESS ARE WOMEN. YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF POLICES WAS SO INSIGHTFUL AND WE DIDN’T GET ENOUGH TIME TO SPEAK ABOUT IT. I FEEL LIKE WE ALL NEED TO HEAR THIS, PLEASE CAN YOU TELL ME A BIT MORE ABOUT THIS?
There is a huge economic gap between men and women, but most conversations don’t go any further than talking about the gender pay gap. But the inequality between men and women is so much more complex than that.
There are pervasive myths and historical legislation built from that which influence us throughout our lives - like women aren’t good with money and were grouped with those who are mentally unwell or infants in terms of their ability to do taxes.
In fact, it’s only become possible for married women in Jersey to do their own Tax returns in 2022 (blows my mind!).
And historically women were unable to own property because legally they were classed as property. Even today, 80% of land globally is owned by men.
I SPOKE TO A START-UP LAST WEEK AND I ASKED THEM ‘WHAT’S YOUR CULTURE LIKE’ THEY ARE 3 WHITE GUYS AND THEY SAID, ‘WE DON’T HAVE ONE’ – HOW DO START-UPS PRIMARILY CREATE A CULTURE?
I’d start off by saying, every company has a culture. If you don’t notice it, it’s probably because it feels very normal and comfortable for you. Culture is just the accumulation of behaviours that people show day to day. If you want to start looking at your culture, ask your team who epitomises ‘Company Name’. Then ask them to describe what they do. You’ll start to find behaviours in there that shape your culture.
If you want to shift your culture, or consciously maintain it when you’re scaling then think about your company values and what behaviours would live this. Find flash points in an employee’s experience at work and bring these to life.
WHAT ARE YOU READING AT THE MOMENT?
I’m fascinated by financial services and economics because, like it or not, we’re all impacted by money, and money has the potential to be such a force for radical good. So, I’m reading: The Cost of Sexism, by Linda Scott. I’d also recommend the book Why Women are Poorer than Men, by Annabelle Williams.
But next on my list is Unwell Women by Elinor Cleghorn.
Healthcare and medicine is another area that society needs to address with issues like the gender pain gap, where on average women wait over 30% longer than men to be given pain relief when in A&E presenting with the same issue. Also, the fact that black women are 4 times as likely to die in childbirth than white women.
IF YOU WERE A SONG WHAT WOULD THAT BE?
I think this is the hardest question you’ve asked me!
I’ve been going through my playlists for days trying to find the right song. I don’t think it exists… So here are a couple:
Fuel – Metallica – It sounds how I feel when thinking about feminism and dismantling the systems and beliefs that enable poorer outcomes for women and minority groups.
Frontier Psychiatrist – The Avalanches – Because I think people find it far-fetched when I start talking about some of the things I’ve learned.
The Middle – Jimmy Eat World – To keep going with setting up my business, it’s not as easy but it allows me to be me and do things, I feel passionate about. It just takes some time.
AND TO END ON DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE QUOTE OR MANTRA TO LIVE BY?
"The second-best time is now."
The full quote is: "The best time to plant a tree was 30 years ago, the second-best time is now."
It gives me hope for the actions of today when it comes to changing some of those deep-seated systems, which won’t change overnight. It’s now looking like it will be 300 years until we achieve pay equality (longer if you’re not white), but the actions of today will create change.
And, I can be a terrible procrastinator! So, reminding myself to be kind, okay maybe I should have done it yesterday, but the second best time is now.
Thanks, Hannah - you rock! Interview by Alicia Teagle