develop have recently started working with Wefarm, a digital platform that connects over 2million farmers without access to internet. Founded in 2015, Wefarm enables farmers to share knowledge, and access a marketplace of trustworthy retailers for free either online or via SMS. Our Marketing Manager, Amy Moore recently sat down with Michelle Davies, VP Operations at Wefarm to discuss her career, diversity and inclusion in the workplace and Wefarm’s plans for the future. Today’s blog highlights diversity and recent changes that Michelle has seen first-hand in the workplace.
Since starting in HR what are some of the biggest changes you've seen?
Oh wow, that is such a big question. The fastest rate of change has realistically been over the last two years, because not only has it forced a conversation at a more global level, replicating what start-ups have been doing for a long time, which is remote work, hybrid work and having distributed offices. Everybody seems to be catching up.
It also has forced a conversation that, again, some of the more forward-thinking businesses have been discussing for a while, but one thing everybody has had to face head on in the last year is mental health and the well-being of your team beyond just the nine to five to the whole person and whole experience. It's a lot easier to have a mental health conversation in the workplace than it was before.
Diversity wasn't even a thing you talked about when I first studied HR. But it's very important to how you design a business now and the knowledge is there that you just can't ignore it. But recently it’s gone beyond that to really understanding inclusion as well.
All of these things seem so obvious now.
What change would you most like to see surrounding diversity & inclusion in all workplaces?
Our executive team, board and company are all pretty much 50/50 male-female split. Of course, our population is quite diverse in the makeup given where we are working as well, but it what’s important is that it just feels really natural to us. It wasn't forced, they are the best people for the job. And obviously that has come originally from the Founder of the business. But it should be obvious how important diversity & inclusion is these days. Facing your own biases and ensuring true inclusion across the organisation should be standard practice.
That said, we have a lot of work to do in other areas, and I think what’s important is that the conversations are happening. No business should be allowed to just ignore it anymore and not face their own structural biases.
Have you seen an increase in diversity for candidates applying for roles?
Yes, but because we work towards it, it won't happen naturally. You have to be conscious of your biases. You have to be aware of what you're putting out into the world, what language you're using for your values, for your careers pages, for your job specs, and where you're getting candidates from. Are you immediately biasing it?
That's part of the reason we've gone to remote first as well. If I say you have to be in a central London office 9-5, then our candidate pool is only people within a certain radius of that office, that can afford to commute and have childcare, if they have kids, etc. etc... And that excludes a huge amount of people who are otherwise great candidates, let alone those with hidden disabilities who may not want to or be able to commute every day. All sorts of things. By saying the team can work from anywhere you open up the candidate pool hugely and remove barriers to entry.
It's the same reason we work with certain agencies because they'll bring us more diverse candidates. You target the demographics that you know are underrepresented, but you have to work for it. If you just post a job that says must have a certain degree or school, you are inheriting the biases of that program or school. And there's a lot of businesses still doing that out there. But I don't think it will last very long. It can't be OK anymore.
Do you think develop have helped you reach those harder to reach candidates?
Yeah, definitely. I mean, I think our biggest challenge from a technical point of view was diversity. We work in Clojure for the most part, which is very niche and has implications for the kind of people that use it. It’s not the standard code that comes out of school or bootcamp programmes and there’s only a few businesses that use it as their primary language.
We have a developer starting in a week who is a female and in Kenya who writes in Clojure, and we found them because of develop. That's part of the reason we started working with develop, you said, we'll find you the best candidates for you and you were excited by the fact we had a global approach, and not scared off by our specific tech stack. And that's really important to us.
We are building a product for small scale farmers currently in East Africa with the goal to be global. We need to have a globally diverse team building a product for a globally diverse audience.
Have develop surprised you?
Yeah, because we tried on our own and we thought we were looking and didn't find the right candidates in our target markets. You found a range of candidates and we ended up hiring one. So, yeah, you’ve definitely surprised us.
If you’d like to participate in our diversity and inclusion campaign please reach out to Amy Moore.