Not that long ago, dxw became employee owned. We’re at the start of this new part of our journey and doing lots of learning as we go.
The move to employee ownership meant that some of the senior team became Statutory Directors and now form dxw’s new Executive Board. For the first time in our history, we have a majority female director team. We think that’s pretty cool, and also still unfortunately, far from the norm.
As it’s Ada Lovelace Day this week, we thought it was a good opportunity to share a bit about ourselves, and how we got here. The good and the bad. We hope it’s helpful to all the brilliant women out there at various stages of their careers (and we’re following Michelle’s lead from her blog post earlier this week).
But first, we thought we should say something briefly about diversity at dxw.
How we got here
dxw started out 13 years ago as a fairly stereotypically largely white, male, middle class, tech startup. We’ve grown lots since then, in size and the range of work we do with the public and third sectors. We have a permanent workforce of almost 80 people and work with an extensive network of talented contractors too.
We’re a much more diverse group now, and a lot of that’s been down to a conscious effort over time to look outside of our immediate networks, make our recruitment process as unbiased and supportive as possible, and do what we can to recruit the best talent out there. Recruiting people we know, and friends of friends, just doesn’t hack it any more.
The dxw team as a whole is now around 50% women, though that’s not evenly spread across our teams or all levels of seniority. We have some pretty obvious gaps to address. We’ve also got much further to go in general, to be representative of the communities we build and run services for. That means more work on recruitment, making sure everyone has the opportunity to develop their career, and creating a genuinely inclusive work environment where people feel welcome, safe, and free to be themselves. Once people join us, we want them to stay.
A bit about us
Alex Jackson, Director of Client Services
“Beneath the shade of thy wings” (sub umbra alarum tuarum, if you like Latin) was the motto of my all-girls secondary school. My life and career has definitely been spent in the shade of many womens’ wings.
My mum started work in the 60s, aged 15, and had to fight all the fights on the way through to her last role as a director. She’ll never tell you that being a woman held her back, but I’ll tell you that fighting those fights as well as doing a job well is twice the work. And I’m thankful to all the people before me who have fought and won.
My first job in the Civil Service was working for another woman, (I was a terrible PA) and she let me moonlight around different projects. I’ll always be very grateful that she allowed me time and space to do that. Since then, I’ve worked for and with many brilliant women – and plenty of supportive men – who have created opportunities for me to learn and deliver. From Directgov and project support and management, to GOV.UK and analysis and delivery leadership, then dxw from delivery to leading GovPress, to here in Client Services.
I’m the newest of the Directors’ team, and I’m very glad to be alongside them for the journey. I’ve always been very proud to work at dxw. These days I’m increasingly proud of our work to become more inclusive from hiring, to internal policies, to the work we do for clients. And I hope I’m able to spread a little shade for others along the way.
Clare Young, Director of Delivery
My career journey took me to quite senior roles quickly so I often found myself surrounded by others who I thought were automatically better than me, purely because they had more years of experience. While I’ve learned, and continue to learn, so much from the people I meet through work, I’ve also realised that there’s enough space for me as well.
Realising that confidence is a behaviour, not a personality type, was a significant moment for me. Now I actively practice my confidence skills. Being successful and happy at work is part knowing things and continuing to learn, and part accepting you have a place and can add value.
At dxw, I feel inspired, motivated, and supported. After 4 years, I’m still learning plenty and I am proud of the inclusive and supportive environment we’ve created. Our majority female Board demonstrates that there’s space for women, and other under-represented groups, in the most senior roles, and I think organisations are a better place as a result.
Coca Rivas, Director of Design
I’m originally from Galicia in Spain, a truly matriarchal society. The Erasmus programme brought me to the UK (I’m sad that it’s no longer available), along with my love for London’s melting pot of cultures. I discovered computers during my art degree and a cash prize from a painting competition allowed me to buy an IBM portable laptop. I somehow ended up teaching people HTML and from there began to code professionally and get paid for it.
My first big professional job was to design the first ever homepage for the Department for Education back in 1999. I was a contractor (before IR35) and at the time not everyone had an online presence or had used the internet. I started working as the one and only female web developer in the basement of Sanctuary Buildings. My English was definitely not as good as my coding and design skills. With hindsight, it probably kept me blissfully protected and allowed me to persevere.
Being a woman immigrant made it harder for me to progress beyond practitioner, a combination of lack of networks, references, and role models. It took me several jobs, a nervous breakdown, and an MBA to realise there was nothing wrong with me. Over the years, having worked in many different places, I still get annoyed and surprised by how society is less likely to think about women in positions of power and decision making, even less so when it comes to technology or finance roles.
dxw is by far the best place I’ve worked. Diversity is embedded in everything we do, from hiring to pulling teams together. The exec team has 5 women directors including a finance director. I feel very at home and fortunate to be working in a place where stereotypes don’t matter and people are valued for the work they do.
Jayne Hilditch, Director of Finance
Back in 1990, when I started work as a trainee Accountant, I was told in no uncertain terms that, “Women don’t wear trousers in the office, we don’t have people like that here.” And though much has changed, there’s still much to do. 25 years later, when questioning whether (former) colleagues should still be referring to, “the marketing girls”, I was marked out as the difficult woman. Well, yes, I guess if that’s where the bar is drawn, I’ve worn that badge with pride.
Much of my career has been in senior roles in the social housing sector, and in the last decade, focused on digital transformation projects. I’ve very much enjoyed working at the intersection of people and technology, but I’ve also found it hard at times. Many technologists I encountered were super quick thinkers with wit and repartee honed on Reddit, and as a more reflective thinker, I often felt a bit of a dunce in their presence.
In 2015, I left full time work in the UK to go and live in the Alps, grow vegetables, and run a ski chalet. I loved the change of pace, and the better view from the window, but missed using the analytical part of my brain, so I took on some freelance finance/digital projects. Fast forward 6 years, and I’m dxw’s part-time, and these days fully remote, Director of Finance.
Working with colleagues at dxw, I’ve seen that great transformation projects come about with multidisciplinary teams, with their different perspectives and styles of working. Magic happens when they work together. We work hard to create an environment where reflective thinkers can thrive and be valued, along with the razor-sharp quick thinkers, the creative thinkers and the analytical thinkers.
Wendy Coello, Director of Marketing and Communications
I thought I’d share a few personal experiences and how they’ve shaped my view of the world. I spent the bulk of my earlier career in the Civil Service. Originally doing policy work, and later moving into communications then digital communications. There were lots of great opportunities to learn and progress. But as a relatively quiet, relatively working class woman, I encountered my fair share of sexism, microaggressions, and sometimes straightforward bullying.
When I started out, I did a lot of making tea during meetings, unlike my male peers. As a parent of young children, I was told by a senior female colleague that leaving at 4pm was ‘tolerated’ but there was a question mark over my attitude and commitment. Having failed a promotion panel, the feedback was that I’d done okay, but they wanted to see evidence that I could, “take people out at the knees.” I could go on, and I’m conscious that I was in a privileged position.
There were lots of positives too and things did get better. I found myself part of teams and organisations that felt genuinely progressive, with bosses that have been bold, kind and human (Steve Foreshew-Cain, Emer Coleman, Mike Bracken, our MD Dave and others – thank you). And so many colleagues now and in the past that inspire me and I’ve constantly learned from.
So here I am, at dxw, where I feel valued and respected for who I am. Able to be my naturally introverted self in larger meetings (though I still get imposter syndrome sometimes). Where servant leadership and teamwork is celebrated. I’m determined from my own experience and that of others around me, to make sure that working at dxw is as positive and inclusive as possible for everyone.
Please keep sharing your stories.