Rav Bumbra: championing women in tech

After 25 years in the tech industry, Rav Bumbra is passionate about helping more women enter and progress in tech roles.

Women are still massively outnumbered by men in the tech sector – but entrepreneur Rav Bumbra is making great strides in helping to redress the balance.

In 2015, after nearly 20 years in the industry, she founded Structur3dpeople, a diversity specialist helping employers to close the gender gap. Then, three years ago, she developed a groundbreaking app, Cajigo, to help women enter and progress in tech roles.

Her passion for championing women in tech goes back to her university days, when she undertook a postgraduate diploma in IT and found that she was surrounded by men. “That kind of put me off the tech industry,” she says. Nevertheless, she went on to work in the sector. “I got married, moved to Bristol, and I landed a tech job – very accidentally, with CompuServe, and that just drew me into technology,” she says. “All of a sudden I was fascinated by it, because I was working with a forward-thinking company which is very diverse.”

She then spent about a decade as a consultant working for various businesses before moving into technical recruitment, where she stayed for 12 years.

“All this time I was surrounded by men and the question I always asked myself was ‘where are the women?’”

Inspiring from the ground up

The move into technical recruitment gave her an opportunity to do something about this imbalance, and she had great success mentoring and coaching women into tech roles.

She also found herself speaking to employers about why they needed to embrace diversity and the benefits this would bring to their teams.

“It became a passion of mine, so in 2015 I set up Structur3dpeople to work with employers, and help them drive their diversity efforts,” she says.

The diversity specialist helps organisations attract, recruit and retain diverse talent. Bumbra’s work in this space also led her to create a mentoring programme for women, which proved to be a huge success. She was delighted with how it impacted women’s confidence and aspirations.

“After the first session 90% of them were inspired and motivated to go away and start applying for jobs – and within six months we’d had 50% of the group apply for and get a job first time,” she says.

Building tools to create change

This experience in mentoring inspired her to create Cajigo, an app designed to help women develop their skills, increase their confidence and feel empowered to achieve their goals in the tech industry. Its beta launch was in 2018 and it was trialled with women in industry and university students. Bumbra was also called to go into schools in Bristol to help inspire female pupils to embrace STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects.

Then the pandemic hit, and the work in schools had to stop. During this hiatus Bumbra discovered the bank’s Accelerator programme, which helped her plan the next steps for Cajigo.

Diversity is more than just ticking the box... It’s about building the right culture so that people feel that they belong, and ultimately it will help you to retain the workforce that you worked so hard to find

Rav Bumbra, founder, Structur3dpeople and Cajigo

“It helped me build that customer journey and focus on who was really going to benefit from Cajigo and where is it going,” she says. “It helped me focus on what the business model looked like, and to realign the businesses with a plan to scale it up over the next few years. I’m so grateful for this Accelerator programme because that was really what I needed at the time. We’ve now got a primary focus of working with schools and helping 20,000 girls move into the tech industry.”

The app also retains its mentoring functions for women working in tech, so that it provides support once women enter the industry, enabling them to network and access mentoring to help them further their careers. Bumbra believes this work is vital in order to create a better gender balance in the tech sector.

“Women make up 17% of the tech workforce at the moment, and what’s even more shocking is they only make up 5% of tech leaders,” she says. “We need more women involved in all areas of technology, especially the design phase.” If it’s only men in control of design and product development, this will naturally lead to an imbalance of product creation that is skewed towards the needs of men, says Bumbra.

“Diversity is really more than just ticking the box,” she says. “You drive a diversity strategy because you’re driving innovation within your business and you’re keeping ahead of your competition. It’s all about building the right culture so that people feel that they belong in those organisations, and ultimately it will help you to retain the workforce that you worked so hard to find.”

Engaging future tech leaders

As well as her work with Cajigo and Structur3dpeople, Bumbra sits on the Women in Business Group in Bristol, part of Bristol Women’s Commission (BWC), an organisation that identifies and tackles issues affecting girls and women.

“It’s about what companies can do to attract more women into their business and give them a better route for progression – we come together every month to discuss how we can make progress in the city,” she says. “I also sit on the BWC Education Task Group, to look at making improvements for girls in education.”

On top of all this, she sits on the board of online tech training specialist Learning People.

“That’s helping another age group of young people into the tech industry,” she says. “They come from all walks of life – they may not have studied tech at university. It’s about helping them to develop their skills, enter and progress in technology roles.”

Bumbra has also remained committed to talking to as many women as possible about how to advance their careers in tech. Keen to support women during the pandemic, in September 2020 she launched Women Talk Tech, an Instagram show, which airs live every Monday at 8pm.

“I talk to women who work in technology roles across industries,” she says. “By sharing their stories and strategies for successful careers, we hope to inspire many more women to enter and progress within technology fields.”

Looking to the future, she hopes to see female-led businesses thrive in the UK. “That can only happen if there is better access to funding and more investment into female-led businesses,” she says. There’s no doubt that her work is helping to drive things in the right direction – Bumbra was awarded the TechWomen100 Diversity Champion of the Year award in 2020 from WeAreTheCity – and she’s as excited as ever about helping more women into tech roles.

For women launching businesses in the sector, she has these words of advice: “Get ready to go on the best ride of your life. There will be many ups and downs, so don’t let the bad days put you off.

“Make sure you carry out your research, gauge your potential markets, evaluate your idea, and get practical advice and support from mentors.

“And join an accelerator programme if possible: it will help you develop the building blocks of your business and your financial knowledge.”

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