Last week Cloudflare attended a roundtable meeting in Brussels convened by the European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Mariya Gabriel, with all signatories of the Tech Leaders’ Declaration on Gender Balanced Company Culture. Cloudflare joined this European Commission initiative late last year and, along with other companies, we are committed to taking a hands-on approach to close the digital gender divide in skills, inception of technologies, access and career opportunities.
In particular, we have all committed to implementing, promoting and spreading five specific actions to achieve equality of opportunities for women in our companies and in the digital sector at large:
- Instil an inclusive, open, female-friendly company culture
- Recruit and invest in diversity
- Give women in tech their voice and visibility
- Create the leaders of the future
- Become an advocate for change
The project, spearheaded by the Digital Commissioner as part of a range of actions to promote gender balance in the digital industry, allows for the exchange of ideas and best practices among companies, with opportunities to chart progress and also to discuss the challenges we face. Many companies around the table shared their inspiring stories of steps taken at company level to encourage diversity, push back against societal restraints and address unconscious biases at work. Flexible work practices and policies, the importance of network building and mentoring, employee training, clear career progression paths for women and pay equality can all play a part in creating a more diverse workplace. Confidence building, including for public speaking, was also an important factor raised by many participants.
Despite ongoing efforts, such as the No Women No Panel Campaign launched in Brussels last year, a recent report issued by EU Panel Watch noted that women’s voices are still not distributed evenly across conference topics with a very clear feminisation, masculinisation and radicalisation of sectors. Sectors showing the lowest levels of speaker participation of women, particularly for keynotes, included telecommunications and technology. Although progress is taking place, it is happening much too slowly.
Despite being one of the youngest companies at the table, Cloudflare has put significant effort into diversity and inclusion programmes, including gender, as we have an unwavering commitment to the idea that everybody should be treated fairly and feel comfortable and respected at work. We also strongly believe in the importance of having diverse teams design, build and test our products in order to ensure their success. We have found that diversity, in all its forms, fosters better innovation and creativity in our company through a greater variety of problem-solving approaches and perspectives, while increasing employee satisfaction and collaboration. McKinsey has also explored the link between financial performance of a company and gender diversity, which underscores the importance of non-homogenous teams in the workplace.
Cloudflare’s commitment comes from the very top line of management – with no finer example than our co-founder Michelle Zatlyn – but we also adopt a bottom-up approach, with our Cloudflare Aware (Diversity & Inclusion) Programme which offers everyone a chance to contribute to different initiatives through employee-driven working groups. We also partner with external organisations, such as Toastmasters, which facilitates sessions for all employees to practice their public speaking and communication skills in a ‘safe’ environment. This enables our female employees in particular to build a pathway towards high profile speaking engagements externally – should they wish to do so – and so play their part in bringing increased diversity to public debates. In fact, we take every opportunity we can to underline the importance of closing the gender gap, even if it means doing something as simple as allowing early access to our Registrar service with donations made to Girls Who Code.
The majority of Cloudflare’s jobs exist in Software Engineering and it can be challenging to recruit female talent in this area. We are particularly keen to speak to women from an engineering background, so please do check out our careers page and spread the word! As a sector, we need to do more collectively to close the gender gap, and with this in mind, we have also recently added our name to the UK Tech Talent Charter. This UK Government-supported initiative is an industry collective which recognizes that only through working together and joining forces can any real meaningful change happen.
As International Womens’ Day approaches, and with this year’s campaign theme being #BalanceforBetter, we will be announcing more activities in this space and seizing the opportunity to celebrate women’s achievements with groups worldwide.