Social mission

AI & Sustainability: SmartCities & Clean Technologies. Takeaways from an All-Party Parliamentary Group session

By Social mission No Comments

I recently had the pleasure to visit the Houses of Parliament to listen in on the evidence session of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on AI about AI & Sustainability: SmartCities & Clean Technologies.

Marrying my interests in digital twin, AI, sustainability, and equitable impacts this was a fascinating event. Chaired by Stephen Metcalfe and Lord Tim Clement-Jones, we heard from industry leaders already implementing pieces of this puzzle, and enjoyed “techno-optimistic” perspectives on benefits AI can bring.

A photo of Jo next to Big Ben. The shot is at a 45 degree angle.

The speakers

Will Cavendish, Digital Services Leader, Arup: Smart city tech is driven by sustainability challenges. AI is a critical enabling tech in design, build and operations, and can give 30-40% energy efficiency gains.

Courtney Holm, Vice President of Sustainable Futures, Capgemini: we must consider social sustainability, and act with human intelligence before automating with AI. “Equitable urbanisation”, eg of infrastructure like 5G is needed to gain ubiquitous benefits for all.

David Elcombe, Managing Director, WindWorkX: shared about projects like CityMesh in Antwerp, and some very futuristic sounding capabilities being researched of drones, flying taxis, optimised energy use. But public engagement will be key.

Iggy Bassi, Co-Founder, Earthena.AI: described integrated climate intelligence, a dashboard for cities to monitor and adapt

Tim Kay, Director, Science and Technology Directorate, Department for Business and Trade: Long term investment and convergence of many sectors will be required.

My take-aways

It’s clear that public-private collaboration will be needed to fully realise the benefits, but what does that look like? With the huge volumes and variety of sensors, monitoring and data needed to underpin transformation, it’s also clear that building public trust is essential.

I’m also now curious how this all intersects with the future of industry (i.e manufacturing, construction) and industry 4.0, which was briefly mentioned, and provides vital materials and infrastructure for smart cities. How does the work of programmes like TransFIRe Hub and other Transforming Foundation Industries projects, on topics like enablers for circular economy, all come together in this future picture?

You can join these types of meeting too

By the way, did you know that many APPGs are open for anyone to attend meetings? You can just register and (presuming tickets are available) join.

Big Ben

Influencing AI Regulations: We must act now to mitigate risk and ensure AI is used to equally benefit all across society

By D&I Innovation, Social mission No Comments

I’m still pinching myself to have had the opportunity and privilege to join a government AI roundtable yesterday, focussing on the proposals in the AI Regulation White Paper. It was great to join a diverse group of leaders – as one of us said, each bringing a different piece of the jigsaw puzzle, but with great alignment across us.

Jo Stansfield, Director of Inclusioneering, with leaders from across the UK AI landscape, assembled for the roundtable event

My perspective

⭐️Although AI is new and rapidly developing, situations of powerful global organisations, intense commercial pressure, and fragmented regulatory landscape are not. Think Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010. Lessons were learned then, resulting in regulatory reform and industry-wide transformation to establish a culture of safety.

⭐️Our risks from AI are not in the futuristic AI domination scenarios, but already present in the disparate impacts and harm to underserved and vulnerable communities we see happening now.

⭐️Let’s learn lessons now from other industries, to avert AI’s Deepwater Horizon event. We must move quickly to strengthen and clarify regulation and establish a culture of responsible innovation.

⭐️In the interim, incentives are needed for organisations to prioritise responsible, inclusive innovation. In Inclusioneering’ equity, diversity and inclusion practice, we see UKRI funding embedding EDI requirements to be an effective catalyst for organisations, who are responding positively, and innovatively, to embed EDI into their work

⭐️Diverse inputs are needed to fully understand the risks and impacts, as well as opportunities – across all stakeholder communities. I recommend an inclusive design approach to development of regulation

I will be spending time to write papers on these thoughts, so more to come on all these topics. Drop me a message using the contact form or in the comments if you’d like to receive a copy. Which are you most interested to explore more deeply?

Q&A: All things Inclusion in Tech Part 2

By Social mission

In the conclusion of this two-part interview, Inclusioneering founder, Jo Stansfield, joins Bella Ikpasaja in a wide ranging discussion of all things inclusion and diversity in tech.

Listen in to learn:

  • Tools that Agile can offer to organisations to develop inclusive cultures
  • For the creative industries, how tech can inspire leaders and hiring teams
  • Hopes for the future of AI
  • What we’re seeing “on the ground” regarding digital skills
  • Looking ahead 10 years, how we see the social impact of tech evolving

If you prefer to read, you can find the the full text for this part of the interview on Bella’s medium blog.

And don’t forget to check out Part 1 if you missed it!

Q&A: All things Inclusion in Tech Part 1

By Social mission

Inclusioneering founder, Jo Stansfield, joins Bella Ikpasaja in a wide ranging discussion of all things inclusion and diversity in tech, as the inaugral speaker in her series of interviews with writers, organisational psychologiest and diversity and inclusion practitioners.

Listen to Part 1 to learn:

  • What inspired the creation of Inclusioneering
  • How Jo’s experiences returning to work after becoming a parent ignited her passion for DEI
  • How diversity impacts business outcomes
  • Effective ways to boost STEM skills for underserved communities
  • Shifts in tech and DEI that could play out over the next 5 years

If you prefer, you can read the full interview on Bella’s medium blog.

And don’t forget to tune in to listen to Part 2.

Help! I’m interviewing for new roles: How do I know the organisation really values diversity?

By Social mission

As a frequent speaker about diversity, equity and inclusion at tech events, I love to speak afterwards with audience members to hear their stories, find out the current topics most important to them, and sometimes to provide a sounding board to help them navigate their next career step.  Given the nature of my work, most often these discussion have a similar underlying theme: as a minority-group candidate or employee, what can I do maximise my opportunities to be recognised and progress towards my desired goal? 

I’ve also recently noticed a positive trend that accompanies this question.  While the discussion is likely to include self-development possibilities, people are increasingly understanding they also have power as a candidate to seek organisations that will recognise and empower people like them.  Environments where you can thrive and grow.

So how, as a job candidate, can you tell if a prospective employer truly values diversity and has a culture of inclusivity to ensure everyone can be themselves and contribute their best work?

Here are my top tips for candidates:



Before your interview, be sure to check out the company website.  I’m sure you will already be doing this to check out what they do, get a sense of the type of work you will be doing, and the benefits package they have on offer.

You can also use the website to probe deeper about diversity, equity and inclusion at the firm. Take a look through the careers pages, About us, “Life at…”, and so on.  What do they say about their values and culture?  Does it align to a culture you would like to work in?

Photos and Images

Do they appear to have photos of actual employees, or do the images look like stock photos?  Assuming they look real, how diverse do the teams look?  Lots of tech firms struggle with diversity, so I wouldn’t recommend to use this criteria to screen out firms who don’t look very diverse, but you can gain some valuable hints from the photos.  Diversity doesn’t tell necessarily say much about their culture of inclusion, so check how authentic the pictures feel to you.  Do people look at ease or is it posed?  Does anything stand out, for example, in group photos, have people separated into clusters by gender?  

Perks and benefits

Some tech firms have become notorious for their “brogrammer” culture.   You can find cultural hints in photos of the offices and perks they offer.  Is it all about beer fridges and fussball (not that there is anything inherently wrong with those things), or do they also have facilities designed to appeal across a broad spectrum of people, preferences, and needs?  Most importantly – does it look like they will meet your needs?

Check out the benefits pages to look for things like flexible and remote working policies, parental leave, including adoption – and if the language they use inclusive of all families not only the hetero-normative ones.  How do they support employees to care for their work-life balance?  How well do the facilities cater for people with disabilities, or neurodiverse colleagues e.g. with quiet spaces?


How diverse is the leadership team?  Representation at the top is a helpful indication, and top level leadership valuing diversity is a key factor for the inclusive culture of a firm.   If there are videos or quotes from leadership, check them out.  Do they create an impression of an environment where you can see yourself thriving?

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programme

Does the organisation have employee groups, e.g. for women, LGBTQ+, race, parents, people with disabilities or others?  Do they openly share their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion policy, any facts and figures about diversity in the organisation, any info about their D&I priorities, or any programmes they have in place? 

Is the organisation a member or a signatory of any diversity related organisations, for example the Tech Talent Charter, the WISE Campaign (Women in Science and Engineering), or Stonewall? Have they won any diversity, equity and inclusion related awards?

Formal Reports

For larger employers, you can also look for their Gender Pay Gap Report, which is mandatory for all UK firms with over 250 employees to publish.  A good pay gap report will be transparent about the reasons for any pay gap (and most, if not all, tech/engineering firms will have a gap), but also about the actions they have taken to reduce it and a measure of how effectively they are closing the gap.  You should be able to locate it on their website (they are required to share it publicly), but if not you can search for them on the UK government gender pay gap service page.  The company Annual Report is another good place to look for information about their diversity, equity and inclusion programme, activities and achievements over the past year.

Social Media

Check out the posts shared on social media.  What is the balance between business and people focussed content?  Do they share any posts about outreach or social impact activities?  Do they feature a diverse group of employees when they share thought leadership and industry content such as articles or videos?

LinkedIn can be a valuable resource to check out who else works at the organisation.  If you have an interview lined up, look up the people you will meet and see the kind the topics they post about.

Employee reviews

Talking to current and former employees is a really great way to get first-hand insights into an organisation.  If you know anyone else who works there, or any friends of friends, reach out to ask them about their experience.  What is the culture like? Ask who succeeds here?  Whose work gets noticed? How are the opportunities to learn and grow in their role?

I also find Glassdoor to be a helpful site for employee reviews of firms.  For the larger employers, Glassdoor even shows employer scores by gender and ethnic groups.  I love seeing these disaggregated reviews, as it can be really enlightening to see how different groups people experience the organisation differently.  These key insights can expose any disparity felt by employees, or show which employers are really walking the talk in terms of diversity, equity and inclusion.

The application process

When you apply, is the process explained to you?  Are you asked if you need any accommodations for accessibility?  Does the system give sufficient options that you can properly self-identify– e.g. with non-binary gender options. 

Watch out if you are asked your current salary.  This is a no-no, as it may indicate they could make on offer based on your current pay, rather than offering the role at market rate – free from any biases that may have become embedded in your salary history.  Ideally, the role will be advertised clearly indicating the expected salary range.

If you are asked to send a CV, is any information given about whether they will remove indicators of your gender, age, and other protected characteristic data when screening the CVs?  This is good practice to remove bias in the screening process, and ensure you are assessed purely on your experience.  Other firms will bypass CVs altogether and ask you to complete an application form instead – and ask you to remove these details yourself.  It might be a bit irritating to enter the info on your beautifully constructed CV to a webform – but it shows the organisation is taking its anti-bias measures seriously.

The interview itself

So, now you are well armed with background info, and the research has hopefully sparked some areas of interest for you to probe further in the interview. 

If you are interviewed by a single person, be suspicious that the organisation may not be applying best practices for inclusive recruitment.  Ideally you will meet a few people – this can help to combat any unconscious bias that individuals have by including a diverse group to make the assessments.

Make sure you arrive with questions to ask.  You may have formed many of your own by this stage, but here are some that you can always fall back on:

Ask about diversity in the team.  Ask to meet them and, if you are going to a physical office, ask for a tour and see who you see around the place.  What does the attitude of the people you see seem like? 

Ask them about the company’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, and any programme they have in place.  I would guess many line managers may not know all the details, but should be able to at least give some info or refer you to someone who knows more. 

Ask about the company culture and values.  Do your interviewers endorse what is said on the website about these things, or do their words and attitudes tell a different story?

Ask about how the organisation have been supporting employees’ wellbeing, particularly during COVID, but also beyond.

Find out about their attitudes to flexibility and remote working.  Both can be enablers for women, carers, people with disabilities and other diverse groups to fully participate – so it’s a positive if a firm, and your recruiting manager, values and enables these ways of working.

Finally, ask them what they are hoping the new recruit will bring to the team.  Consider their answer: do they seem to want someone to fit in, or someone who will bring something new?

Last thoughts

Here I’ve shared lots of ideas for how you can assess how diverse and inclusive your prospective employers may be.  To make it a bit easier, I’ve made a handy checklist version, so you can score each firm against each of these topics.  Bear in mind you probably won’t find full information until you join – so it’s likely you’ll have to leave some gaps, and don’t expect any organisation to get a perfect score on all of these measures.  But I hope this will spark some thoughts, help you make comparisons, and help to expose the considerations that most matter to you. 

My strongest advice would be to identify any must-have items for yourself, and think carefully if it looks like you may need to compromise any of these. Happy job hunting, and good luck!