From policy to parity: celebrating International Women’s Day 2024

Naomi Hulme

MD Skyral Gov & Company Director

How Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have an inclusion advantage and why we need to shout about it

Taking care of people builds good businesses. This is a no brainer. We know that happy people make for happy, motivated workforces, so investing in women plays a rather obvious hand in accelerating growth.

Now, what’s less obvious is the peculiar parallel I’ve noticed between the actions being taken to ensure Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) can thrive in an unwieldy market, and those taken to build inclusive workplaces for women and minority groups.

Quite a statement. You would be forgiven for thinking that perhaps peculiar doesn’t quite cut it for an International Women’s Day piece of content, however, let me explain…..

Think about the conversations you’ve heard, news articles you’ve read, or Linked In posts you’ve gazed across in the past year. If you’re in my network, you’ve most likely seen, heard, or thought about:

  • Opening the marketplace for SMEs to thrive
  • Enabling and empowering innovative technology adoption across government
  • Driving collaboration between industry, academia, government, and the third sector


These conversations are bubbling all around us.

And, I’d argue, they are incredibly similar to the advocacy being championed for women in each of those professional communities listed above.

That, in and of itself, is groundbreaking. Why? Because it means we are working toward a fusion of accelerated progress for SMEs and underrepresented communities at the same time; and that’s going to make our world better, faster.

Case study

I’ll demonstrate, using Skyral (yes, I’m biassed) as my case study:

The theme for #InternationalWomensDay2024, with its focus on investing in women to accelerate progress, mirrors our own mission at Skyral. We are actively advocating for fairer and more competitive market practices to drive adoption of novel technologies. We believe in fostering an environment where small, pioneering companies on the bleeding edge of innovation have the opportunity to thrive. This means calling for increased investment in these startups and making marketplaces work for them.

We also believe in investing in the women who work in that very same marketplace–those who have the talent, tenacity, and ambition to build the technology we need, so that our workforce is not only representative of who we want to be, but is also reflective of our user and customer base.

And how do we do this? SMEs are agile by nature. This is not news. By streamlining processes and providing support to women at a rapid clip, we can ensure that innovative solutions to the problems women might face are not stifled by bureaucratic red tape; instead we focus our time on actions which lead to tangible results. This approach not only benefits startups when it comes to their people policy; it also contributes to a more dynamic and competitive market landscape.

Skyral launched less than six months ago, and we’ve implemented policies from day zero that promote gender equality and create a supportive environment for women to thrive.

From flexible working arrangements and generous parental leave, to developing an internal network of absolute powerhouse women, joining mentorship programmes, and supporting exceptional organisations such as the Defence Women’s Network, Women Empowering Defence and the Valkyries team from HMS Oardacious, we’re continuously finding ways to empower women in defence and technology, while simultaneously breaking down barriers to entry. I’d argue that the above should be the status quo for any and all organisations, irrespective of size and market sector but the sad reality is, it isn’t. And I don’t mind admitting that it took me personally a lot longer than it should have to realise that.

‘Accelerating progress’ means a lot in Skyral’s small corner of the world. If we’re asking it of government, academia, and larger primes when it comes to growing our business, we must also demonstrate internal investment toward the acceleration or progress in our direct community.

I want to close by pointing out that we have not celebrated our women at Skyral this week because they’re women, but because they’re people and professionals at the apex of two of the most challenging fields, both in terms of professional rigour and accessibility: tech and defence.

While we honour them today, their work speaks for itself. Everyday.

Images: MOD Crown Copyright 2024

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