The topic of diversity in the technology industry has been on many people’s minds of late – especially following various reports of sexual discrimination in the Silicon Valley tech scene and the infamous Google Memo.
With the media also focussed heavily on issues such as pay parity, it came as a shock to many when the Science and Technology Committee responsible for advising and scrutinising government policy appointed eight white, middle aged men to represent the industry.
A Tweet announcing the new all-male Select Committee “up and running” was met with scorn as many in and outside of the science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) industries criticised the lack of diversity in the line-up.
Some labelled the line-up “disappointing” while others criticised knowledge scope of those selected, claiming many had a lack of background in science and technology.
Others pointed to the line-up as highlighting a “weakness” in the self-nomination process for Select Committees – it’s widely claimed that women are less likely to put themselves forward for roles than men.
Hindsight can be a wonderful thing, and following the backlash in the wake of the announcement, the new chair if the committee, Norman Lamb, wrote a letter to various Government officials to urge that diversity was taken into account during the selection of the remaining three places in the committee.
He said: “The practice is for parties to run their own processes to identify members to put forward for the House’s approval, but this has resulted in no women currently being nominated for my committee. I am concerned that this will affect the ability of the committee to perform its role effectively.”
A woman, Vicky Ford, has since been appointed to one of those positions, and she has already felt it necessary to highlight on Twitter that she was not given the position as a result of tokenism but “on merit”.
I know a lot of men in the industry who are doing everything they can to try and further diversity in the tech workplace – but they’re not necessarily the ones influencing government policy and more needs to be done to ensure these decision makers reflect wider society.
It has always been widely highlighted that a large number of those who use technology and influence buying decision in the household are women, and yet many are not represented throughout the industry.
Unless women and those in other minority groups are part of the conversation surrounding the development and legislation of technology it is very likely these technologies will not be built to cater for everyone.
Personally, a last minute plea for diversity with only a few spaces left to fill is too little too late – Lamb’s call for a review of “the way in which parties invite nominations” to encourage gender and other types of diversity needs to be seriously addressed.