The case for allyship: Jiten Kachhela

Halimah Awan

By Halimah Awan

Ally of the month is our new series exploring what it means to be an ally in tech. We celebrate people who go above and beyond to turn thinking into action and ensure the future of technology is more diverse, inclusive and benefits everyone.

This month, we spoke to Jiten Kachhela, Global Head of Digital and senior sponsor for Women in Tech at PA. In our interview, he reflects on what Women in Tech (WiT) means to him and practical steps people can take to act as an ally.

Why did you get involved in Women in Tech?

We started out a few years ago in partnership with Code First Girls, running coding courses for women who were looking for a career change and found we built great momentum and engagement. Since then, things have evolved and rapidly grown.

What’s brilliant about WiT is the progress we’ve made over the last four years. A lot has been done without clear mandate, significant investment or a ring-fenced team but out of pure will and passion for achieving greater diversity in tech.

If I look at the gender diversity gap we’ve got in tech, it’s something that, as leaders in this space, we’ve not cracked over the last two decades I’ve worked in this area.

My role has been as a sponsor, looking at ways in which we can scale the work done, helping to get investment, recognition and any additional support needed. Bringing in marketing, HR, or taking investment decisions to the leadership team to provide support, but also being equally passionate about the cause.

Why is diversity in tech important?

Diversity isn’t about hitting a quota or number. In fact, focusing on figures makes diversity far more difficult to relate to, which makes it harder to enact change. The real reason we want diversity is because diversity in teams means diversity in thought, leading to more creativity, better work, better experiences and innovation. There’s still work to do to ensure everyone understands that.

As leaders, it’s our collective responsibility to make a change. I want to make sure we do everything we can and leave a positive legacy.

I have an eight-year-old daughter and there are these stereotypes that kick in from a very young age – that girls like pink and boys like blue, and there are certain things girls can and can’t do. My daughter was talking to me a while back and I asked her if she wanted to get involved and enrol in a coding course, she asked “isn’t it boys who do that?” I was interested to know why she thought that at such a young age. I want to dispel those myths, so she grows up in an environment where she can do whatever she wants and chooses to do.

What are some actionable steps allies can take?

Everyone recognises the need to address the gender balance in tech. But unless you make it your problem to solve and prioritise that in your working week, then it’s just words and no change.

For me, there are three ways for leaders to do that:

1. Get involved

Help to organise, turn up, participate, engage and listen at WIT events going on within your organisation. Do you have technical skills that you can share? Volunteer to support your WiT group – share resources you found useful and be available to help.

2. Coach and mentor

Take the time to encourage, support and advocate women much earlier in their careers. There’s a limit to how much of this you can do due to the hours of the day, but distributing the workload amongst leaders will make it easier to scale the impact.

3. Be an ambassador

Think of the ways you can be an ambassador at work and in everyday life. Can you organise a talk at your children’s school, for example? We need to start early to tackle the issue, even at primary level. Encouraging both boys and girls to explore their full potential, to develop skills early on, has the potential to change the path of their later school life and career.

What’s your advice to women starting their career in tech?

Understand what tech is and the opportunities it can give you by talking to people in the industry who have followed a tech career path. What was their journey? How did they get into it? What worked well? What didn’t?

Tech is very broad. It can mean everything from coding and product management to IT infrastructure and cloud. When you strip it back, tech allows you to take a problem and figure out how you best solve it, collaborating with teams and delivering tangible solutions. At PA, we believe that the rapid advancement of technology creates opportunities for our people to live our purpose every day, applying their ingenuity to create a positive human future and deliver end-to-end innovation with our clients.

Be inquisitive – give things a try and get started somewhere. It’s never too late to get started. Even if you don’t have a tech background, you can always get involved.

About the authors

Halimah Awan
Halimah Awan PA digital analytics expert

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