Changing the dialogue: how to create a more inclusive workforce

3 min readNov 3, 2020


Zone’s Charlie Ivens hears advice and inspiration aplenty at Zone’s latest Women in Digital event…

The second of Zone’s online Women In Digital events was led by a panel of three mould-breaking female creative leaders, covering themes of creative leadership, returning to work after time away and male allyship.

Ali Hanan, founder of Creative Equals; Resh Sidhu, executive creative director at Barbarian; and Sarah Plant, our own experience design partner; each brought their own unique experience to the wide-ranging chat, which shot from subject to subject at compelling speed.

The 70-minute session was enjoyed by upwards of 70 engaged participants of all genders, who contributed via Webex to the lively conversation, which was guided by Zara Powell, our client delivery lead and TechWomen100 winner in 2019.

The discussion kicked off with Zara’s assertion that “women are massively underrepresented in technology, and we want to do something about that to make a more inclusive workforce”.

Ali said: “One of the challenges we have as a sector is that you don’t get promoted unless you go to the pitch table and you’re seen to be winning new business — and winning awards.” The conversation stretched out to cover how much harder it can be for women to reach that table, especially because they’re more likely than men to take time off to have children, and (in non-pandemic times) to work remotely for reasons of childcare.

Resh pointed out that it’s just as much a client’s as an agency’s responsibility to insist on having diverse voices heard throughout a project process: “Until clients request a change, I don’t think agencies will change.”

“Brands can absolutely be a force for change — and they may not have thought to ask for diversity.”

Among the most popular items on the afternoon’s slate was Sarah’s suggestion to keep a ‘Brag File’ on your computer: a folder for immortalising positive messages from your professional life. “Everyone should have one,” she said. “Every time you get some good feedback you screenshot it and stick it in there!”

Another big hit was Ali’s suggestion to “call in” (rather than “calling out”) colleagues who share what might be seen as outdated or prejudiced viewpoints, or who act disrespectfully in meetings.

The idea is that by practising non-violent communication — tackling the issue with questions rather than accusations — everyone can benefit and more voices are likely to be heard. “Ask people questions,” Ali said, “like ‘Why do you have that opinion?’ or ‘Why did you speak over me?’”

Resh exemplified the panel’s positive energy with her final advice to “elevate each other, celebrate each other so someone doesn’t have to go through the same things as you”. And if a colleague or a client is doubting your ability, use that power for good.

“You don’t think I can do it? I’m going to show you I can do it — in the most gracious way possible.”

A full video of the event is available here:

Follow Zone on Eventbrite to get updates on this series and other events such as the Zone Book Club.




We write about customer experience, employee experience, design, content & technology to share our knowledge with the wider community.