- To someone who may not be aware, what is BT Ireland? What areas does BT Ireland specialise in?
BT is one of the world’s leading communications services companies, with close to 100,000 people serving customers in 180 countries. We are also one of the leading communications companies in Ireland, retailing to large businesses and the public sector, and wholesaling to other communications companies. In ways the Covid-19 pandemic really gave our industry the opportunity to step up and demonstrate the importance of services like connectivity, security, and unified communications and collaboration tools. We had to act quickly as a designated essential service to support customers with their urgent communications requirements as restrictions were put in place in Ireland and across the globe.
2. How many people does BT Ireland employ across Ireland? How does the D&I team help support them?
We employ 650 people, working in roles ranging from engineering to sales to security. There’s a D&I centre of excellence in BT, ensuring our strong commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion is evident to all of our colleagues and that their ‘lived experience’ in BT is a positive one. For example, we have always placed an emphasis on flexible working, and continue to evolve it under a new Smarter Working framework, to support our colleagues to have a work life balance and an opportunity to succeed. We’re also supporting our numerous people networks, including Pride + Allies, Early Careers, Families & Carers, Inspiring WoMen in Business, which act as a collective employee voice, and as peer support for all our people. We’re putting a diversity, equity and inclusion lens over everything we do from hiring to development and promotion, to better embed it across our company.
3. What are BT Ireland’s D&I priorities for 2021?
We’ve identified five clear strategic priorities. These include:
- A balanced workforce that better reflects diverse societies
- A consistent approach to inclusivity for colleagues and customers
- Inclusive design built into all products and customer offerings
- Improved outcomes for disadvantaged groups in society.
4. How are the BT Ireland D&I team implementing these goals? Are there any internal programmes BT Ireland are using to reach them?
Our team has a defined plan is place, working with BT Group and endorsed by the Ireland leadership team, to execute against these strategic goals. If we take the workforce diversity priority, as an example, we have imbalances we know we must address. We’re working with our Talent Attraction and Talent Acquisition colleagues, and our hiring managers, to ensure the necessary checks, accountability and governance are in place to build DEI into every step of the hiring process. We’re expanding early careers pathways into our company, including apprenticeships, internships and graduate schemes. We are developing external networks that can help us to reach a wider pool of talent from diverse backgrounds.
5. Are you working with any external companies in Ireland to help these priorities?
We work with a wide range of organisations as part of our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programme. We are active in Connecting Women in Technology (CWIT), a collaboration between 20+ technology companies to attract, develop and retain women in technology. We’re also aligned with Business in the Community and were the first to sign up to Elevate, their new Inclusive Workplace Pledge which commits companies to declaring their diversity data and delivering tangible results on D&I. Our network also includes the IBEC Diversity Forum, which is great for giving advice on best practice on D&I, and 30% Club Ireland where supporters work to improve gender balance in senior roles in organisations. In addition, we have been delighted to work alongside, and lend support in other ways, to other brilliant organisations including the Irish Wheelchair Association, Blossom Ireland, Separated Children’s Service, Teen Turn, and the DCU Educational Trust.
6. Have BT Ireland invested in any unconscious bias or disability awareness training programmes?
Training and educating on diversity, equity and inclusion has been a fundamental part of our programme. We run multiple versions of unconscious bias training, including a specific module for hiring managers. We also commissioned AHEAD to run Disability Awareness Training for our people management community. Earlier this year we introduced mandatory Race Awareness Training for all employees, and our latest training is in the area of Inclusive Design.
7. One of BT Ireland’s biggest D&I initiatives is BT Young Scientist Competition. Why did you decide to sponsor the competition? What have been some of the highlights since you started sponsoring it?
We are immensely proud of our organisation of the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition. It’s part of our Digital Impact & Sustainability programme and we work alongside the Young Scientist charitable trust. The exhibition aligns with our strategy on multiple levels. It is delivered inhouse by hundreds of BT employees and is a great opportunity for them to give back in a meaningful way. We are privileged to provide a platform for young people to express their ideas for a better future, and it is amazing to witness those ideas every January and see how they extend beyond the exhibition too. Entrants come from really diverse backgrounds, and the exhibition gives them a voice and an opportunity to shine. We are very proud of the fact that when faced with the pandemic last year, we took a risk and made the decision to go ahead with the exhibition in a virtual format. We didn’t want to put talent on hold and wanted to step up as a technology company and find a way to deliver it. We were delighted with the response from the vast eco-system involved, and the virtual platform actually enabled the exhibition to reach thousands more visitors from 77 countries.
8. BT Sport have been at the forefront of the fight against racial discrimination in sport. How have BT Ireland built this into the D&I hiring programmes overall?
The last year in particular shone a powerful light on issues of systemic racism, prejudice and discrimination. Like others, we’ve been forced to hold the mirror up to ourselves, as a business, and ask what more we can do and to commit to being bolder in our approach. To accelerate the pace of race equality, we introduced a Ethnicity Rapid Action Plan, which includes a fast-stream for high potential people from ethnic minority backgrounds, fuelled by targeted recruitment within our graduate and apprenticeship intakes and our work with partners to help grow diverse talent pools.
9. How did the pandemic affect your D&I goals? Were there any positives from this time?
Covid-19 continues to be a major challenge for everyone. However, because we were set up with the right technology and communications tool in our organisation, and had an existing flexible working culture, we could act quickly when the restrictions were put in place in March 2020. The health and safety of our employees was our first priority, followed by doing everything we could to keep our customers and the nation running, as well as continuing to support communities that were hit hard. We dialled up our focus on health and wellbeing and conducted regular pulse surveys and virtual gatherings to make sure we were minding our people. We also put in place Wellbeing Afternoons to enable employees to unplug and step away from the ‘desk’ and launched a Digital Wellbeing Charter with practical advice to help employees and managers to be sensitive and aware of needing to strike a balance when working and trying to juggle other commitments such as remote learning for children and caring for relatives. If anything, I think the pandemic has brought us closer together as a team. It was the great leveller within BT Ireland specifically where we all pulled in the same direction, regardless of our different backgrounds, to empathetically work through this unprecedented challenge we all faced.
10. Are there any other people, programs or companies in D&I in Ireland that you or BT Ireland are fans of?
Amazing work is being done by so many organisations and individuals, all with the common goal of making Ireland a more diverse, equitable and inclusive country. If we had to narrow it down to one person who we’ve had the honour to work with for over 20 years it would be Dr. Tony Scott, co-founder of the Young Scientist Exhibition. In the 1960s he had the vision to take science out of the classroom and instil a passion in it in young people. The exhibition is still thriving over five decades later, and not only have over 100,000+ young people entered it, the blueprint of the exhibition is now being used to promote STEM in more countries across the world.