Happy Pride Month! At Made Tech, we’re very lucky to have a diverse team powering everything we do. One way in which we celebrate and champion our differences is through the activities of employee-led working groups. I want to give you a little tour of some different employee-led groups at Made Tech, to show you what it’s like to work here!
What is an employee-led working group? Put simply, it’s a self-organising team of Made Tech people who have something in common, and want to establish virtual and or physical spaces to connect with one another, primarily via a Slack channel. The ‘something in common’ tends to be a protected characteristic or allyship with people possessing that characteristic: we have a real smorgasbord of groups on our Slack workspace, ranging from x-antiracist-activists, to x-women-in-tech, to x-lgbtqiaplus.
Crucially, we make a distinction between open groups (these are open to allies: for example x-antiracist-activists); and closed groups (private channels closed to allies, such as x-people-of-colour). Most of the groups focus on providing a warm and friendly support structure to those who identify with the characteristic in question, and to allies who want to improve their allyship. Not to mention they serve as great spaces to organise socials and interesting events with like-minded people!
Why the x in the channel name? This is simply part of a broader Slack channel naming convention at Made Tech that makes like channels easier to find and our sidebars neatly organised.
What is an employee-led group not? It’s not a place for allies or the Made Tech business to virtue signal and try to score brownie points. Contributions from allies in open groups are warmly welcome, but everyone is aware that the most prominent voices in an open group should be the voices of those the group intends to celebrate.
I want to shine a particular spotlight on the x-lgbtqiaplus group because that’s the one I’m most active in. As well as providing a virtual space on Slack for queer colleagues to network and support each other, we also organise regular in-person socials at the various different Made Tech offices. Our last get-together in London was an absolute blast, seeing us go out to a West End drag musical and getting to know each other better over some cheeky drinks!
What’s more, we also organise a bi-weekly virtual meditation club run by yours truly. We have an extra bonus closed Slack group (southwest-queer-events) for planning events in the South West of England. And we hold a virtual get-together after work on the last Wednesday of the month, affectionately dubbed the Rainbow Hour.
In future, we’re hoping to organise different kinds of events that are not purely social-focussed: in the South West subgroup we’re looking at planning some tech-centred events aimed at LGBTQIA+ coders, such as a collaborative coding session for Hacktoberfest in October, and hosting a workshop for codebar Bristol later in the year.
On a more sober note, one of the biggest benefits of being in the community is I know that if, in the unlikely event I experience homophobia or biphobia in the workplace, then I have my group 100% behind me to talk about it and help address it.
One of the coolest things about employee-led groups at Made Tech is that the employees ourselves take ownership of each group and its activities: there’s no top-down authority telling us to set them up, or policing our actions. This structure gives us a huge amount of agency and support on a daily basis, which is really empowering and beneficial for those of us who are underrepresented in tech or society at-large.
In the age of the pandemic, workplaces need to take action to strengthen colleagues’ wellbeing, so groups like this are especially relevant in the new era we find ourselves in. Anyone at Made Tech who sees the need for a new group is free to establish one without question: a colleague in the x-lgbtqiaplus group has actually made a brand new one recently, x-disability, for disabled Made Tech people and their allies.
Moreover, there’s another aspect to employee-led working groups that’s essential to balance. This is the importance for a group’s members of maintaining the grassroots-led and owned nature of communities, while being able to leverage the official support of board-level colleagues too if needed. So the control and direction stays firmly within the hands of the group’s members, but if necessary, we can additionally fall back on executive sponsorship.
This means that a member of the executive team has a responsibility to support and advocate for that group, as directed by the group chairs. We don’t yet have this kind of structure in place: Luke on our exec team champions diversity and inclusion generally. But we’re exploring the idea of sponsorship for individual groups, and writing this blog post has helped move that conversation forward.
I hope you’ve had a fabulous Pride Month and this gives you a nice flavour of the cocktail of fascinating groups we have here at Made Tech!