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Paving the way for Diversity and Inclusion


“Inclusion happens when…you are showing up, you are being an ally, a mentor, you are really creating"

This is a guest post from Microsoft Advertising, a Tech Nation Rising Stars 2.0 partner.

There is much to be gained from the adage “start as you mean to go on”. This is particularly relevant in the context of early-stage tech companies and their commitment to diversity and inclusion from their inception. The correct culture, mindset and structure must be fostered and exemplified from the top down for diverse and inclusive practices to succeed.

Furthermore, Tech Nation’s Diversity and Inclusion report shows that it pays to be a diverse and inclusive tech company. Boards with gender diversity have a £70k turnover premium and there is 453% higher investment for directors sitting on internationally diverse boards.

Diversity and Inclusion at Microsoft

Microsoft’s mission is deeply inclusive: To empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more. We expect each of us, no matter what our level, role or function is, to play an active part in creating environments where people of diverse backgrounds and organisations of varying sizes thrive. It is from this empowerment mission that Microsoft’s passion for diversity and inclusion emanates.

“Inclusion happens when…you are showing up, you are being an ally, a mentor, you are really creating, through your everyday actions, a more inclusive environment” Satya Nadella (Microsoft CEO), 2019

The Inaugural Rising Stars Microsoft Advertising Diversity and Inclusion Award

For the Rising Stars 2.0 competition, Microsoft Advertising and Tech Nation co-created a new spotlight award which shines a light on diverse and inclusive workplace practices. At Microsoft Advertising, we believe in the transformative power of diversity and inclusion. Only by actively engaging different perspectives can we challenge and stretch our thinking, enrich the experiences of our employees and achieve our mission.

Applicants were asked to share what inclusion of a diverse workforce means to their company. The standard of applications was very high, and the Microsoft Advertising team chose a shortlist of three exceptional companies. The shortlisted companies attended the final on February 13th at 30 Euston Square, London; they were Pickr, Know You More and Insurtechnix.

The FinalistsPickr

Pickr is a digital staffing platform that uses technology to help businesses reduce the costs of building and managing a flexible workforce. Businesses can augment their workforce in an instant, connecting with the UK’s largest community of skilled industrial workers.

Pickr champions diversity and inclusion in various innovative ways. Key achievements that highlight their commitment to drive diversity and inclusion in the workplace and beyond include:

  • To tackle gender imbalance, they sponsored the 2018 DevelopHER UK Awards which celebrates East Anglia women in tech
  • In 2019, Erin Heenan, Community Manager at Pickr, won the DevelopHER Digital Marketer Erin is also nominated for the 2020 Digital Women Blogger of the Year award
  • For International Women’s Day, they created a #BalanceForBetter campaign which was shortlisted for the Best B2B campaign in the UK Content Awards and Social Media Marketing Awards
  • Within their organisation, they have appointed a dedicated diversity and inclusion champion who attends industry events to report and implement best practice
  • They offer flexible working practices to assist student employees
  • They recently won the Computing Rising Star Awards ‘Team of the Year’ for creating a collaborative, supportive culture
  • They foster a learning culture by funding their developers’ AWS accreditations
  • They recently formed a partnership with Norwich Codebar, to offer free mentoring for underrepresented groups (including women, BAME, LGBTQ+)

Know You More

Know You More is a platform that enables HR and Learning teams to offer executive-level coaching at scale, to people across every level of their organisation. Experienced, accredited coaches support companies with people development. On-demand coaching is delivered using confidential video conversations which can be accessed at anytime, anywhere.

Know You More embraces diversity and inclusion in the following ways:

  • Recruitment process demonstrates mission to attract diverse and inclusive workforce. Wording used in role advertisements are gender and culturally balanced. For their on-boarding process, they developed an inclusive training programme
  • Reflective practices enabled via bi-yearly engagement surveys to facilitate employee feedback for improvement
  • Leadership exemplify and encourage honest, open communication. All team members included in decisions underpinning the organisation. Frequent updates given on the company’s direction, (eg: slack communication channels, bi-monthly video communication updates, weekly “check-in” calls).
  • Continuous Professional Development promoted through employee coaching. Team members empower women returning from maternity leave and help create leaders at all levels of NHS Scotland with Project Lift.
  • Inclusive growth model and Tech for Good aspiration fulfilled through pro-bono coaching for charitable and community purposes. Delivered 1,000+ coaching hours to young adults from all backgrounds (eg: helping those transitioning from education to employment, from the care system to independent living and the journey of refugee women in UK).


Insurtechnix’s CyberSentinel is a cyber risk management solution for non-technical users, demystifying cyber security for all. The tool is designed specifically for SME business users (Boards, CFOs and Data Protection Officers) who are responsible for managing their organisation’s cyber risk.

Insurtechnix implements diverse and inclusive work practices by:

  • Tackling the challenges of gender imbalance in the tech industry through ensuring there is a strong female representation (co-founder is female)
  • Workforce is diverse in terms of age, gender, and experience
  • Promotes flexible working practices
  • Training and personal development supported

All the nominees exemplified best practice and leadership on diversity and inclusion in early stage tech companies.

At the Rising Stars Grand Final at 30 Euston Square on February 12th, we were delighted to announce Pickr as the winner of the inaugural Microsoft Advertising Diversity and Inclusion award. Erin Heenan, Community Manager at Pickr, was presented with the award at the prize giving ceremony.

Amali de Alwis

Amali de Alwis, Managing Director of Microsoft for Startups UK, was one of the five judges who chose the 10 Rising Stars at the Rising Stars 2.0 Grand Final, and she also presented the Diversity and Inclusion Spotlight Award. Diversity and inclusion is very close to Amali’s heart as she has extensive experience with making advancements in this area, particularly in relation to women in tech. Prior to her role at Microsoft, Amali was the CEO of Code First: Girls. In 2019, 10,000 women were taught to code by Code First: Girls, meaning they reached their halfway goal of training 20,000 women by the end of 2020.

She serves on numerous boards including the Institute of Coding’s Inclusivity and Diversity board, the Founders Academy board and the ADA. National College for Digital Skills board. She has also judged many awards ceremonies, including’s Tech Playmaker Awards, Lord Mayor’s Dragon Awards, WinTechSeries Awards 2018, WeAreTheCity TechWomen50 Awards 2017 and the British Interactive Media Association Diversity Award Panel Chair 2017.

We’d like to congratulate all the Microsoft Advertising Diversity and Inclusion finalists who have successfully demonstrated their pledge to pave the way for diversity and inclusion.

The Microsoft Advertising Team would like to thank Tech Nation for their partnership and ongoing support in enabling us to launch this amazing Rising Stars spotlight award.

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