techUK President Sheila Flavell CBE learned a few tough lessons about diversity and equality when she started her career as a police officer patrolling Glasgow as WPC247. As she recalls, speaking with The Stack: “This was before equal pay came into play [in the early 1970s], so we were paid less than our male counterparts.
“When equal pay was introduced, we were thrust out into the streets of Glasgow, into the worst patrols in the city, because the men didn’t think we were as capable as them – and they wanted to prove their point.”
They proved the opposite and she spent four years with the Strathclyde Police Force; an experience that no doubt tempered a steel that has stood her in good stead during her career, including her current role as Chief Operating Officer and Executive Board Director of FDM Group, a FTSE-listed recruitment multinational.
Later experiences in the Middle East, where she lived and worked for 12 years during the late 1970s and 1980s, then as a mother returning to the workforce with two children further cemented her belief in the importance of nurturing diversity and inclusion; something she is now keen to champion further through techUK’s inaugural “President’s Awards”, launched this month, for which The Stack is media partner.
techUK’s President’s Awards give the increasingly influential technology trade association’s member companies the opportunity to nominate an extraordinary internal colleague for one of four awards categories: society, planet, economy and people. Nominations close on April 26. Winners will be announced at the techUK Annual Dinner, taking place on 5 July in London. The shortlist for each category will be invited to the Annual Dinner.
Championing undersung talent in the UK’s tech industry is clearly a genuine passion for Sheila. At FDM Group she started the company’s returners’ programme which is now a global initiative that offers seven weeks of intensive training and coaching for those seeking to return to the workforce – whether after one year or 20 years – and she emphasises that although it was born of her own experience as a mother returning to work that “we have many, many women who embark on the programme, but it’s not exclusively for women.
“[I’m proud of the fact that] during my 30-odd years with FDM we have a zero gender pay gap and 50% of our leadership team are women. But diversity goes way beyond gender. When we think about diversity, we have to think about ethnicity, we have to think about disability, diversity of thought, and only by creating a world of tech that suits everyone, will we create the solutions that suit the world that we live in,” she emphasises.
“At techUK we have circa 1000 member companies, both SMEs and large multinationals.
“By shining a spotlight on them, we hope to inspire others, both inside and outside our membership, showing that tech can be a force for good. Our mission is to realise the positive outcomes from the application of members’ technologies; delivering a better future for people, society, the economy, and the planet. We really want you to shine a spotlight on those incredibly talented individuals within our member companies who really are going above and beyond what their job relies on them to be able to do. So we’re looking for trailblazers, we look for problem solvers, who are using the technology to make the world a better place, regardless of whether they work for a big, well known tech company, or an SME that we hope will become the unicorn of tomorrow.”