Some businesses may be under the illusion that it is the tech itself that is at the heart of the tech sector - but this is where they’re wrong. People are always the core part of any company, and diversity and inclusion sits at the heart of not only the tech industry, but of overall digital growth.
Those who have worked in the tech sector for a long time understand that innovation thrives from varied ways of thinking, hence why recruiting and retaining a diverse and inclusive workforce is such a priority. Diversity isn’t just a checkbox exercise as part of your recruitment process - it should be at the forefront of everything you do, to ensure success in all parts of your business.
What does diversity look like in the UK tech sector?
Despite it being 2021, there is still a way to go in terms of diversity and inclusion within the UK tech sector. There has been a noticeable increase in conversations around diversity, both in the recruitment space and the tech space in particular, but an increased number of conversations does not guarantee actual change.
A study by Tech Nation found that the current state of diversity among directors of UK tech companies is noticeably unbalanced. According to Tech Nation, the characteristics of tech directors are correlated with the performance of their companies, and they discovered a pattern between directors’ gender and company turnover.
Although there are continued discussions being had and training being put in place throughout companies in the UK tech sector, the number of men compared to women being made directors of tech companies has stayed almost exactly the same since 2000.
As of right now:
49% of all workers in the UK are women
22% of directors in the tech sector are women
19% of all UK tech workers are women
Is gender diversity in the UK tech sector the main problem?
Gender diversity is definitely one of the most prominent issues in the tech sector, but alongside it is the issue of disproportionate treatment of those from ethnic minority groups. Only 4% of the UK tech workforce is black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) overall in the UK, and statistics have shown that ethnic minority workers in the UK are paid around 10% less than their white colleagues. With the tech industry growing so quickly, as well as it being the biggest sector to contribute to our country’s economy, it doesn’t add up that the sector itself doesn’t mirror the people it serves.
Ever since it was required for companies with more than 250 employees to reveal their gender pay gap, it was also discovered that there was, and continues to be, a noticeable pay gap between ethnic minority and white employees in some of the UK’s biggest companies. For example, PwC revealed that they pay their ethnic diverse employees 13% less than other workers in the country, and their BAME bonus gap is 35.4%.
Furthermore, a report by the BSC found that age and disability is also a problem within the tech sector. A staggering 22% of UK IT professionals in 2019 were aged 50 or above, and 11% of all IT specialists in the UK at this time had disabilities. Despite these numbers being likely to have changed over the last 12 months due to COVID-19, it is highly unlikely that the statistics will have improved.
What about the LGBTQ+ community?
A study by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) found that more than 33% of LGBTQ+ people avoid careers in STEM, due to concerns about discrimination and bullying - which highlights that there’s work to be done here, too.
The study also found 33% of gay engineers felt that their sexuality had been a barrier in terms of career progression. Furthermore, 53% of LGBTQ+ workers in the UK tech sector were found to have heard jokes about gay and lesbian people at least once in the workplace, and 20% of LGBTQ+ employees stated that they were asked to dress more masculine or feminine.
What can be done to improve diversity in the UK tech sector?
Businesses need to be aware of the diversity and inclusion issues in the sector overall, to ensure that they address the problem head on when recruiting and retaining their own staff. Options such as blind recruiting open up the door for those from different backgrounds to make it through the recruitment process successfully. In addition to this, training within companies as a compulsory policy can be implemented to tackle the issue of discrimination and bullying.
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