What are we doing about diversity?

At the start of the year, my colleague Sarah Plant and I decided to host two film screenings. CODE Girl and CODE-Debugging the gender gap. We’re both advocates of women in tech and hoped the film screenings would bring together like-minded people who could share in a discussion around this topic. The second film touched upon other marginalised groups in the tech community including BAME, LGBT, and lower income groups.

As a result of these films, we started to relate some of these wider issues back to our own work environment.

Diversity is important at White October, our sister company White October Events put on some of the most inclusive / diverse speaker lineups in the tech industry and take their code of conduct very seriously – ensuring all attendees are aware of it, and making staff visible and available to assist when needed.

I thought it would be useful to provide some context about the profile of White October, seeking to be transparent and to celebrate in the areas we’re doing well in and acknowledging the areas we know we could improve.

The facts

Out of a team of approx. 30 people. 12 are women

  • Out of a leadership team of 5. 2 are women.
  • Out of a development team of 13. Only 1 is a woman.
  • Out of a design team of 4 all are women.
  • Only 2 people in the team are non-white

We are proud to have a gender diverse leadership team but acknowledge the challenge in terms of addressing and fixing the gender imbalance within our development team.  

So, what are we doing about it?

After the film screenings earlier this year, Sarah Plant put together a working group of five people who were keen to address some of these disparities.

Around the same time, Sarah Plant had been shortlisted for a Women of Tomorrow award and as a result had become aware of Make the Leap a Campaign initiative encouraging companies and agencies like ours to make your pledge for better diversity and equality in the workplace by 2020.

The targets of which are ambitious

  • aim for 40 % female representation in senior positions by 2020
  • aim for 15 % BAME representation in senior positions by 2020
  • help eliminate unconscious bias through training
  • raise awareness of flexible, or agile, working policies

It’s encouraging that we’ve already hit 40% female representation in our leadership team and have had flexible working policies in place for some time, allowing team members to choose working hours which work for them and their other commitments.

The first diversity group meeting

We used the first diversity group meeting to brainstorm what diversity means to us as individuals, what aspects we were individually passionate about and what activities we thought we could be doing to push the needle on some of these targets above.

The core area’s included

  • Increasing applications and colleagues from BAME
  • Increasing number of women in leadership / senior positions at White October
  • Continue our apprenticeship scheme and start internship programs to enable young people with a foot in the door, regardless of formal education

However, it was interesting that people also mentioned things closer to home

  • Accommodate people with food allergies at our monthly team meals
  • Avoiding activities that revolve around alcohol as we have a couple of team members who don’t drink
  • Ensuring that some social activities are done within the work day e.g. within lunch so people who need to leave on time for childcare or other reasons aren’t excluded
  • Avoid activities within the working day that exclude remote workers

We then plotted our ideas on an impact / effort matrix (see below) which helped identify some quick wins to get us started


These included:

  • Running our live jobs ads through textio and gender decode which use technology in statistics and machine learning to help companies hire better
  • Adding a diversity charter to our careers landing page and job listings
  • Framing our own designs of the make the leap milestones to make them visible around the office
  • A checklist or diversity template event organisers could use
  • A diversity calendar open to all, with events happening with wider communities we haven’t interacted with before

principles-2-02  principles-2-06   principles-2-01

Posters designed by: Anna Peniaskova

We ended the session by brainstorming a group vision statement and came up with the following

The White October diversity group aims to provide support to activities that make White October a more diverse and inclusive place to work.

The topic often feels daunting in size but our colleague John Chadfield reminded us that “We only lose if we don’t do anything”.

The impact of these activities might seem small in themselves but each one will help us move forward i.e. running our job descriptions through Texio, a tool which looks at tone of voice etc and highlights how you could appeal to more job seekers.

The tool generates a score which tells you how effective your document is. A score of 88, for example, indicates that your document is more effective than 88% of comparable documents.

It took a matter of minutes and highlighted some problems with our jobs ad i.e. add an equal opportunity statement increased our score from a fair score of 62 to a strong score of 86.

This activity was actually quite reassuring, as it indicated our tone was good if anything our job ads were appealing to female job seekers more than men. It also gave us areas to work on i.e. using more “we statements”.

We have struggled to maintain the momentum since our first meeting but our Slack channel is still active, members regularly sharing interesting blog posts and resources.

We are still committed to meeting and have discussed altering the format of the working group to make them shorter, more of a scrum update and then having less regular vision activity sessions to check we’re still on track.

We’d love to hear from other agencies who are doing something similar.

Resources we’ve found useful


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