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‘Depressing’ lack of diversity in UK IT workforce sees widespread discrimination

The UK IT sector is a difficult place to find a job unless you are a white, able-bodied male under 50, says BCS research

The lack of diversity in the UK IT workforce is “sobering and depressing” with evidence of discriminatory recruitment affecting women, people with disabilities, ethnic minorities and the over-50s, according to research.

A study by BCS – The Chartered Institute for IT has revealed that only 17% of UK IT specialists are female, 8% are disabled, and 21% are over 50, compared with national statistics that show 51% of the working-age population are female, 23% are disabled and 45% over 50.

However, the BCS research showed that UK IT performs better than average when recruiting people from non-white ethnic groups – with 17% of the IT workforce from ethnic minorities compared with 12% of the UK population.

But IT specialists from minority groups are more likely than others to be in non-permanent employment and those in temporary positions are more than twice as likely to be in such jobs because they could not find permanent work.

Other findings of the BCS research included:

  • The UK IT sector employs proportionately fewer older or disabled people than the total workforce in every UK region.
  • People from any of the minority groups analysed are less likely to be in full-time, paid work than their non-minority counterparts.
  • Women or people with a disability are paid on average 15% and 16% less, respectively, than their male, able-bodied counterparts – although IT specialists from minority groups were found to have higher-than-average weekly earnings.

“Whichever way we look at it, these figures make for sobering and depressing reading,” said Rebecca George, vice-president, BCS Organisation and Employers Board and public sector lead at Deloitte. “Whatever actions that have been taken so far to instigate change simply aren’t having the marked and imperative change that we need.

“Men run most of the organisations in our sector, so we have to start there. As they are four times more likely than women to say they don’t see discrimination happening, we clearly need to change the entire way they think.”

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Computer Weekly’s annual UK salary survey for 2017 found the gender pay gap in IT to be even starker, with an average salary for women in tech of £59,209, compared with the average male salary of £78,599 – a difference of 25%.

“There are lots of examples where simple organisational changes can be made to alter the status quo,” said George. “But it will require myriad changes, sustained focus and collaboration across organisations, employers, government, schools and community groups if we are to change anything.

“Treating everyone with respect and improving diversity in our sector is surely a key element of making IT good for society. In 2017, it seems incredible that this is still an issue to be tackled, but it is, and that is why everyone has to realise that they have a responsibility in changing this for the better.”

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