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“We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.” – An Interview with Emily Lewis

‘’There aren’t very many Women in Devops’’

Those we’re the exact words I said to Emily when we she joined and we decided on her new market. She said well there must be and I’ll find them, and first full month with us she has just closed her first deal, and guess what it’s a brilliant female devops engineer. A bloody great recruitment story too.

Sometimes you meet people who you just click with, who shares similar interests and who you could listen to all day. That’s what I found when I met Emily! I thought I knew a lot about Diversity and Inclusion but Emily has taught us all so much. Her passion for Diversity shines through in everything she does and she is an amazing ambassador for the brand.

Her next is, to create meaningful and positive change within the tech world. She’d like to influence young women to get into tech earlier and really understand the avenues available to them. She’d like to continue having those tough conversations around implementing diversity and inclusivity strategies, and how they benefit as a whole. – We love it.

Thank you for being you and inspiring and supporting me and the rest of the team. Keep doing all of that.

Why did you join SR2?

From the first time I heard about SR2 – I knew I had to work there! Geographically it was perfect because I was returning back from Japan to the West Country, BUT (most importantly) as a business, we shared so many core values. I heard Chris’ (and then Alicia’s) Podcast on the Recruitment Rollercoaster, and I was blown away. It seemed such a refreshing approach to recruitment – from donating 5% of profits to local charities, setting up Tech Volunteers to give back to the community, Women Rock – a platform to raise the voices of Women within the Tech industry, plus codebar – a not-for-profit set up to train underrepresented groups to code. I mean the list really is endless!

You won Rising Star and WeAreTheCity in 2019. How did that come about and what made the judges chose you?

That was really out of the blue! My old company nominated me because I had been doing a lot of work around Women in Tech, mostly from a recruitment perspective, including working with Mums returning to work, working with companies on attraction and retention in their recruitment process, and 66% of my placements were Women, and on average they received 17-19% pay rises! Sometimes I would actively search for Women to be in my network, but a lot was word of mouth or through my social channels. I was shortlisted out of 20,000 applicants! On the night, each award is separated into categories and there were 5 winners in each – and I was one!

What are your plans and ambitions for Women Rock?

It would be great to develop Women Rock into a community, of likeminded women, but also Men, and non-binary folx, because the work can’t be done without everyone being involved. Where best practices become standard practice, where we can talk openly about the best (and the worst!) of experiences and ensure companies are getting on board, taking us seriously, and implementing positive long-term change!

You have had an amazing success in placing diverse candidates into roles. This is amazing to see and I know most recruiters don’t share the same passion for this as us. What does diversity mean to you?

For me, Diversity means accepting the existence of different variations, characteristics and values within a group of people, and understanding the there is not a “one size fits all” approach. I think when it comes to diversity, there is a lack of data and understanding about what is the norm, because for so long workplaces have been dominated by the “cis white man”, but that has changed now. The world needs to keep up. Simone de Beauvoir said it best “representation of the world is the work of men; they describe it from their own point of view, which they confuse with the absolute truth.” Diversity begins from within.

What advice would you give to companies on how to attract the best diverse talent?

Before companies start “diversity hiring” they need to think about WHY they are doing it. Is it just a tick-box exercise, just a performative piece just because they think that people want to hear it? It can’t be pioneered by HR, it HAS to come from Leaders and hiring managers, and without that commitment, it doesn’t matter who you hire, they won’t stay.

Companies need to understand that with diverse talent comes diverse needs and requirements. What has happened before will not suit what is to come. I think the first step, is to think about what’s on offer and WHY the best and most diverse talent would want to join, what benefits would it bring them? How will they be treated? How will they be flexible to support that employee. It’s not about just employing a Woman and then clapping each other on the back saying “we did it, good one”.

Do you think Covid-19 will have an impact on diversity hiring?

I think there couldn’t be a better time to look at diversity hiring than now. Everyone is working from home, finally – leaders who have spent their careers sat in an office, are finally seeing the benefits of flexible home working, spending time with families, not commuting for 2-3 hours a day! There is more of an even playing field for a lot of people. Physically-challenged people don’t have to travel to interviews – they’re on zoom, a person with neuro-diversity doesn’t have to worry about sitting in a room with 3 strangers, candidates with childcare responsibilities can work around their school runs. There has NEVER been a better time to look at diverse hiring strategies and how they can positively benefit the workforce long-term.

I’m currently listening to the high performance podcast – Jonny Wilkinson talk was mind blowing. Also loving Mrs Hinch’s new book and mid-way through Michelle Obama’s podcast which is stunning. Any books, podcasts, or blogs you’d recommend?

I’ve recently decided to only read books, listen to podcasts etc by Woman, or non-binary folx, it’s been revolutionary. You wouldn’t believe how powerful it is to be in control of something like that, but I’m finding myself empowered more by what I’m reading, and inspired with words that resonate so much more.

Top book picks:

Invisible Women – Caroline Criado Perez (I’d also grab her weekly newsletter – its BRILLIANT!

Sheryl Sandburg – Lean in

Amanda Holden – No holding back (ok, rogue autobiography but I just loved it! ❤)

Top podcasts:

Fierce Feminine Leadership – Eleanor Beaton

PowerBanking – Jacqueline Twillie

How to be a STEMinist – Tiff Dawson (newbie addition but I love it!)

If you could choose one song that reflects you, what would that be?

The Greatest Showman – This is me (By Keala Settle). My go-to karaoke song every time, and it’s just badass and powerful.

Who would be your 3 people at a dinner party?

Simone de Beauvoir, Emmaline Pankhurst and Miranda Gates.

What is next for Emily?

Hmmm tough question, the ideal scenario would to create meaningful and positive change within the tech world. I’d like to influence young women to get into tech earlier and really understand the avenues available to them. I’d like to continue having those tough conversations around implementing diversity and inclusivity strategies, and how they benefit as a whole.

We love you Em! #womenrock

By Alicia Teagle

A voice for diversity in tech <3

I: @womenrockbristol

T: @womenrockbrstl

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