Inspirational Woman: Gaia Caruso | Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Sparta Global

Gaia CarusoGaia is the Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at Sparta Global.

With an academic background in ED&I from Norther Arizona University, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and Cass Business School, she has been recognised for her work in the digital space and contribution to the ED&I discourse. Gaia is the Winner of “Role Model of the Year” at the Women in Tech Excellence Awards and has been named one the Most Influential Culture Leaders in 2020. An advocate for fair education and employability opportunities, she is a champion for the work Sparta Global is doing to promote social equality through digital training.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I head up the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion function at Sparta Global, where I lead the internal ED&I strategy and work with our client partners to deliver Equal Opportunities programmes in the digital space. I am profoundly invested in the transformative role of equality, diversity and inclusion in shaping global business practices that benefit technical and societal progress.

I come from an academic background and have previously worked on research at Northern Arizona University and The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) to explore organisational inequalities related to gender, ethnicity, and socio-economic backgrounds. I brought my passion for research and ED&I change to Sparta Global, where I wholeheartedly embraced the company’s vision for digital inclusion.

Sparta Global is shaping the next generation of tech talent, transforming lives by offering equal access to training, upskilling and employability opportunities that empower individuals from all walks of life. Our model provides an innovative talent offering to companies that share our passion for corporate social responsibility, connecting clients with the diversity of skills they need to power high-impact digital projects.

Through the company’s growing network of ED&I partners, academic relations, and industry allies, I get to work with other leaders who are equally committed to fostering positive, log-lasting change in the digital space.

Do you ever sit down and plan your career?

Everyone who knows me, knows that I like to plan! I believe in setting out my professional goals with purpose, being intentional about my self-development and conscious about the impact of my work on the future of the business. I believe that an element of planning is particularly important for ED&I leaders, whose individual objectives, research interests and advocacy choices can help shape organizational priorities and actions.

At the same time, not everything can be planned, so it is important to learn how to navigate uncertainty and unpredictability. I find that a balance of long-term planning and responsiveness to environmental changes can help you grow your skillset in a strategic yet agile manner, exploiting opportunities for progression while making the most of unexpected change.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

The biggest highlight so far has been developing the Sparta Global ED&I function and Advisory, a project which is very close to my heart.

As a long-time champion of ED&I, Sparta Global has always been dedicated to fostering equal opportunities and diversity of thought in technology. The new strategy has solidified and advanced our ED&I efforts through a community-driven approach to talent engagement, people management and client collaboration. Through our dedicated ED&I Advisory platform, we also share our knowledge, inputs, and best practices with our clients, fostering a community of industry allies who believe in building a more equal tech sector.

This is a great time in our ED&I journey. Education and employability are key drivers of societal justice, and I am thrilled that Sparta has been recognized for its work promoting both. We have recently received several awards in the ED&I space – from “Best SME Tech Employer” at the Women in Tech Excellence Awards to “Technology Playmaker of the Year” at the Global Awards – which is a testament to the passion and commitment of everyone in the organization.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success? 

I believe that our individual journeys are shaped by many forces. Some of these factors – such as motivation, ambition, and goals – come from within. Others – such as opportunities, resources, and networks – we can seize or create.

One thing I am particularly grateful for is the people I have worked with so far.

I have been lucky to meet some inspiring individuals who are authentically committed to promoting positive change in industry. I have worked alongside strong role models whom I have benefitted from both personally and professionally. I have learned from great mentors and have been a mentor to others. I have built a network of colleagues and industry partners I share interests with and made some great friends along the way.

Every person who has played a part in my career so far has contributed, in different ways, to the journey.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?  

I am a big advocate for mentoring! Long-term mentoring can help you advance your personal development, identify opportunities for progression, bridge gaps in skills and knowledge, and enhance your personal brand in powerful ways.

I have been lucky to work alongside a strong female role model who has helped me throughout many phases of my career. Working with a role model in leadership has been particularly impactful from a perspective of broadening my perspective, deepening my ability to navigate complex decisions, and scaling the impact of my work over the years.

I am now a mentor myself, and volunteer with a charity called Migrant Leaders to champion a multicultural community of emerging talent in my free time.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

We lack – and urgently need – a more holistic approach to discussing Gender Equality within the industry.

For years, the debate on Women in Tech and Women in Business has looked at gender as a stand-alone issue. What we now need is a new approach, one that considers both the visible and invisible facets of diversity which make each of us unique. We need to address women empowerment by recognizing that individual experiences are shaped by the intersection of gender and other aspects of identity such as ethnicity, age, nationality, mental health, socioeconomic status, disability, culture, or parenthood. We need to stop talking about women as a homogeneous group and instead focus on batting complex and systemic patterns of inequality through tailored conversations and actions.

My prediction for 2021 is that more business leaders will become aware of the importance and significance of intersectionality in the Gender Equality discourse, which will encourage a mindset shift towards considering ED&I as a more holistic discipline.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Seize growing opportunities that come with change, as often as you can! Change is an intrinsic part of your career, as it is for most aspects of your life. Learning to embrace change early on – and the challenges that come with it – means making the most of new circumstances, unlocking avenues for personal development, and stretching your skills beyond the boundaries of your career plans. Turning setbacks into opportunities for growth is an underrated and not-talked-about skill most people develop with age and experience, and it is a powerful one to learn early on.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

We are living through a pivotal time in history, one which is being shaped by technical advancement. Digital education and training is – and will continue to be – a driving force of employability, emancipation, and justice. Sparta Global is doing something truly incredible to nurture a more equal workforce, leveraging the power of education as a door opener and social leveler. My vision is for this mission to expand and touch more lives, both nationally and internationally. The next challenge is scaling the impact of our work in a sustainable manner, providing a tangible solution to the global youth employability crisis while tailoring our efforts to the needs of local communities.

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