Tim Paul

Growing a diverse, inclusive design team

A GDS Design team meeting in 2020 A GDS Design team meeting in 2020

The challenge #

Public sector design teams should reflect the diversity of the population they serve. This isn't just the right thing to do - it results in better design.

When I joined GDS in 2012 the design team was almost exclusively white and male. This is unfortunately a reflection of the wider design and tech industries.

Things improved, but by 2019 we knew that as a community we had a responsibility to create more opportunities for designers from all backgrounds.

My role #

I'm an experienced hiring manager - I've led more than 20 recruitment campaigns at GDS, and also helped other departments build their design teams.

My focus as Head of Interaction Design was on attracting more diverse applicants and developing fair hiring and promotion practices.

The approach #

Some of the measures I put into place included:

Redesigning job interviews - making them more consistent and less biased towards designers with privileges like free time or a university education.

More open career progression - making pay rises clearer and fairer to all designers. Read more in this case study.

Mentoring more junior designers - I regularly mentor more junior designers from diverse backgrounds, in GDS and other organisations.

Participanting in careers events - These were developed especially for designers from typically underrepresented groups, and resulted in multiple hires.

Developing in-house talent - Increasing diversity by hiring less senior designers and then developing their careers through team moves and promotions.

The outcome #

Thanks to this and other initiatives the GDS design team is far more diverse now than at any point in its 10 year history.

More than half of the people I have hired at GDS have been from a group that are underrepresented in the design and tech industries.

More importantly, all of these people are now thriving in those roles, and are building careers for themselves.

Thanks to... #

The work described here was part of a much larger effort involving many people.

In particular Clara Greo, Debs Durojaiye, Kara Kane and Ignacia Orellana have worked tirelessly to improve equity in GDS.

Clara has blogged here about this work.

Tim Paul