Here is the inspiring Diversity Keynote delivered by Baroness Oona King for TLA Women in Tech at the London Stock Exchange to kick off London Technoogy Week 2016…

Thank you Sarah and Nikki. Nikki I loved your session about stereotypes and unconscious bias. Fingers crossed I don’t fall into all YOUR stereotypes of a politician!

But due to the tragic events of last week – the murder of Jo Cox MP – this might be the first time in forever that people are looking at politicians through a different lens.

I knew Jo because we both worked for Labour Women’s Network, and we both had a habit of ending up in refugee camps.

It’s devastating that this is what it takes to break a stereotype…

The other thing Jo’s brutal murder reminds us, is something more prosaic: you never know how much time you have left. That’s why we need to ACT as soon as possible.

Talking of stereotypes, did you know that DUE to stereotypes all around us, research show girls decide “they don’t like maths and they don’t like tech” at the AGE of 6!

That’s why we need Tech London Advocates (thank you Russ Shaw), & Women in Tech. Thank you again Sarah & Nikki

What a FABULOUS event this morning…

What I love about Women in Tech is it’s very action-oriented approach.

Visit the website to see what I mean:



On the website you see the starting point is awareness.

It’s amazing what awareness can do.

When you become aware of how dire a situation is, unless you’re a completely heartless human being, you’ll probably want to change it.

And when you become aware of how women are often excluded in the tech sector, you realise it makes bad business sense.

So here are some things people should be aware of:

* Research by McInsey shows that gender diverse companies are 15% more likely to be profitable than non-gender diverse companies

* In terms of a GROWTH MARKET, the growth market for women is TWICE the growth market for China and India combined.

Sure, get on a plane to China.

But maybe also think about targeting a market much closer to home.

Maybe DON’T ignore 50% of your prospective talent pool!

And of course women are more than 50% of your potential market: women are responsible for 80% of consumer spending decisions, even when they’re not actually in the shop… (Because we’re everywhere!)

Growing awareness of this fact – that women drive consumer spending – has made me more and more popular.

To be honest, in the past, being a Diversity Executive wasn’t so much fun.

The phone never rang.

These days it rings off the hook.

People are suddenly like, “wow, diversity can make me rich!”

And that’s fine.

Of course there’s the moral side of the equation, which is simply that everyone who has talent and works hard, should have the same chance to succeed.

You shouldn’t lose your career because you’re the wrong gender or colour.

Or because you have a disability, or are LGBT, or because your parents don’t have networks.

That’s why people come up with diversity policies.

But people don’t realise it’s not just companies that have diversity policies, countries can have them too.

America has the most famous diversity policy of all: it’s called the American Dream.

It means a lot to me personally, as my father is African American, and my uncle was the first black man to run for President.

The problem is the gap between the dream and the reality.

So before my uncle ran for President, he started off with a more manageable ambition: he decided to integrate Mississipi University.

The authorities of the time (the late 50s) said that any black man who wanted to go to Mississipi university must be mentally insane. So they sectioned him, and actually locked him in a mental asylum for 2 years.

So here’s my point: the gap between the dream and the reality is what a diversity strategy sets out to fill.

That’s why it’s so important to be a diversity champion. That’s why I ask you all to redouble your efforts. To make sure you are all TLA advocates

Because to champion diversity in the tech sector, is to be on the side of the Angels, not just angel investors. It’s also about staying on the right side of a profit margin.

It’s to say that if you work hard and you have great talent, you will have the same chance as anyone else to succeed.

It guarantees no more than that, but that in itself is a golden guarantee.

I hope the work I’ve done in the broadcasting sector can serve as an example of what businesses can do when they come together around diversity.

What we’ve done is make the British broadcasting industry the first in the world where competing commercial broadcasters have devised a common diversity standard, and begun a systematic and ongoing benchmarking exercise to both measure and incentivise progress.

Isn’t it just box-ticking?

No, it is fundamentally about widening the talent pool, finding untold stories, and increasing diversity of thought & diversity of production formats.

And it’s already driving behaviour change.

For me, my personal mantra is:

Data + leadership + resources = change

I also have my “3 A’s of DIVERSITY”:

1. Accountable 2. Affordable 3. Accessible

  • ACCOUNTABLE: is the industry accountable? What about your company? What about your board? What about your team?
  • TRACK diversity, set a target for increasing diversity, and reach it. Remember diversity is about all of us
  • AFFORDABLE: make sure you can afford diversity. Sometimes it costs nothing, it’s about an open mind. But often it costs money or resource: setting aside time to find more talented diverse people when your next vacancy comes up.

Channel 4, for example, found the director Steve McQueen by implementing a policy to widen its talent pool, and give talent a chance who didn’t have the qualifications. It took longer. The recruitment process was more expensive. But when Steve McQueen – and Film4 – won the Oscar for Best Film, for “12 Years A Slave”, no one was complaining about that particular diversity policy. They were just over-awed by the talent and the creative achievement.


Who’s in the room?

Who gets into the room where the decisions are made?

This really dawned on me when I worked in the Prime Minister’s Policy Unit. When I arrived at Downing Street I learnt a new expression called “holding the pen”. It described whoever was responsible for crafting a response and getting it out to the press. One particular day, some crisis blew up in the afternoon, in my policy area, so I was “holding the pen”.

I had to and pick the baby up from the childcare centre at 6pm, and when I left Downing St at 5pm, they’d look at me like I was going out for a mid-morning break or elevensies. I arrived to pick up the baby, only to be told he had a temperature. When I got him home, he did something I’ve never seen before or since. Not projectile vomit; projectile poo. It was unbelievable. I remember looking up at the ceiling and thinking “no way!” It was everywhere, all down me, all over the sofa, dripping onto the floor.

The phone was ringing, and it was Downing Street. The person on the other end of the phone was screaming “Oona you’re holding the pen! You HAVE to get the press release out in 10 minutes, can you do it, can you do it??!!” I wanted to say “no, I’m not holding the pen, I’m holding the baby.” But instead I answered “yes, I think I can do it, it’s just you have NO idea how much SHIT I’m dealing with!”

To which the Downing Street Aide replied, as you would expect, “Oona we’re ALL up to our ears in shit!”

The thing was, I wasn’t the only person in the Downing Street Policy Unit who had young kids. But I WAS the only person in Downing Street who didn’t have that one thing you need above all else: I didn’t have a wife.

And this story always reminds me that there will always be different people, at different times in their lives, who have different needs, and different issues (crap!) to deal with. If they’re talented and hard working, and if you’re a good colleague, you’ll help them find a way to stay in the game, because it benefits your organisation over the long term. I couldn’t work out a way to stay in Downing Street, and look after a young child, so I had to leave. If you help a talented colleague stay in the game, then there you go – you’re a diversity champion!

I want to end by returning to the point about awareness.

One Friday night, a while ago, I was watching TV, and I suddenly became aware of something:

David Mitchell the journalist and commentator had various guests on his TV programme, including David Harewood, the black actor of Homeland fame. And then in the Last Leg it was Adam Hill with guests including one of my favourites, Eddie Izzard. Two TV shows, featuring disabled people, an ethnic minority, a transvestite comedian, (who describes himself as a lesbian trapped in a man’s body); in total 10 on-screen protagonists, but not ONE woman!

I mean isn’t it incredible that over 50% of the population are women, yet we routinely have whole evenings on TV where it’s virtually a woman-free zone? It crossed my mind: am I watching this in the UK, or Saudi Arabia – why are the women kept out of sight?? The statistics show that women on average are outnumbered by men 2:1 across all broadcasters and all genres – with the exception of soaps, because if they didn’t have the Mum’s and the daughters and the aunts, then it wouldn’t be real life! But all the rest of TV, well it’s not real life. How does your office, your organisation, and your industry do in terms of reflecting real life?

We all need to take responsibility to be agents of change.


So here are some Calls To Action:

  • Each of you have a responsibility being here today to advocate gender equality here today. Take your mobiles out and tweet ‘I’m an Advocate for women in tech. Join me #SheCanDoTech @tlawomenintech, or @oona_king
  • Go and find out your business, function, team statistics – be able to quote them and talk about them regularly – awareness is the foundation!
  • Challenge your own team around the same statistics – don’t let it become just an unspoken number.
  • And if you want an example of a diversity policy, then please take a look at the one I was responsible for at Channel 4.
    It’s called our 360 Degree Diversity Charter, and although it has a lot of elements, I tried to distill in the 3 page intro, everything I’ve learnt about what a successful diversity policy requires (in the broadcasting industry, but there are lessons there for all industries).

So I end by asking you this: please let’s make sure we’re ALL aware of our power to create change! And let’s sincerely thank Sarah & Nikki for getting this movement started.

Thank You for listening.