melita - stock.adobe.com
Globally, only 24% of women and ethnic minorities in tech roles feel like they have a sense of belonging in organisations, despite 75% of leadership executives believing the opposite, according to Capgemini.
Research by the consultancy firm found that 90% of organisations worldwide are having trouble implementing inclusion practices and designing services within technology teams, despite an increased need for technology development as a result of the pandemic.
Shobha Meera, chief corporate social responsibility officer and group executive committee member at Capgemini, said: “In a world of increasing demand for tech-fueled products and services that are free of discrimination and are inclusive by design, the importance of inclusive tech workforces, cultures and practices is more important than ever.
“And yet, we see a wide gap not only in the state of inclusive representation in the tech workforce of organisations, but also in the perceptions of leaders versus [that of] women and ethnic minorities on the state of inclusion in tech. This report draws attention to the urgent need for organisations and leaders to embrace this reality and focus on improving diversity and inclusion in tech teams in a challenging talent environment.”
Diversity, inclusion and equity in tech teams
There has been an ongoing diversity gap in the technology sector for some time, with groups such as women; those with disabilities; people of Indian ethnicity; those from a black, African, Caribbean or black British background; or from a Pakistani or Bangladeshi background making up very few of those employed in technology roles in the UK.
Capgemini’s report does not further break down data about ethnic minorities, but mentions that respondents were asked which of the following they identified with: white, Asian, black, Hispanic/Latino, Middle Eastern/Arab, Native/Indigenous people, people whose race is not represented, and those who are mixed race.
While the report found that women account for 21% of tech employees globally, and those from ethnic minority backgrounds account for 16% of tech employees, different roles tell different stories.
In product management, product design, user interface and user experience (UI/UX) research and design teams, women made up around 16% of people in these roles, with ethnic minorities making up around 13%.
Representation of diverse groups dropped even lower for employees in artificial intelligence (AI), analytics, data science and data management teams, with women making up 15% of those in these roles and ethnic minorities making up 12%.
Numbers dropped further still in cyber roles, with women and ethnic minorities each accounting for only 12% of people in these roles.
Part of building a diverse and equitable workforce is about ensuring the culture in an organisation is inclusive, allowing everyone to feel as though they can be themselves at work without fear of discrimination – inclusion in many cases is the part of diversity initiatives firms struggle to achieve.
When it comes to feeling included at work, 53% of women and ethnic minorities feel comfortable sharing their personal lives with peers, but only 9% feel the same about those in leadership positions.
Capgemini’s research found a disparity between leaders in organisations and employees when it comes to diversity and inclusion – 85% of those in leadership positions think all employees are offered the same opportunities, but only 19% of women and ethnic minorities think this is the case.
In technology teams, only 22% of employees from black backgrounds felt they had the same career opportunities as their colleagues. This number fell further in technology roles such as product management or design, with only 8% of employees from black backgrounds feeling that they had equal opportunities to grow and progress.
Part of the reason for having diverse teams working to develop products and services is to ensure these products and services are representative of, and cater to, the audiences using them.
But only 16% of women and ethnic minorities in tech think there is good representation of minorities in the tech teams responsible for developing products.
A third of organisations deemed to have inclusive practices said having women or people from ethnic minorities in tech teams leads to different perspectives being shared during the design process, which leads to more inclusivity.
Capgemini also found that companies with diversity and inclusion practices are more likely to create products that cater to everyone – for example, it found that 40% of organisations with inclusive practices in place include end users in their product development during every stage to ensure it caters to their customer base.
Designing diverse consumer tech
It’s hardly a surprise that Capgemini’s report found that consumers expect organisations to develop technology that can be used by lots of different types of people, and expect organisations to consult with a diverse range of groups when developing that technology.
There are concerns from under-represented groups about the use of technology in various sectors. For example, Capgemini found that half of those from an ethnic minority background believed they were offered a lower credit score when using an online banking product, and almost half of women from ethnic minorities were offered a lower credit facility for certain banking products during an online application.
More than 40% of global consumers who were either women or from an ethnic minority believed they were not shown options for healthcare in more expensive locations, and 40% of customers from ethnic minorities were not given healthcare information relevant to them when using online services.
An average of 40% of ethnic minorities felt they were not shown luxury good when shopping online, and 30% said chatbots used sexist and biased terminology.
More than 75% of non-binary or non-gender disclosed people, and 66% of those from an ethnic minority, are concerned that sharing their personal data could negatively affect their ability to get jobs in the future.
Many of these issues stem from algorithmic biases – when data used to train systems is racist or sexist, these traits are mirrored in how the system operates.
A number of situations shared in Capgmini’s report in which the use of AI and algorithms can negatively affect those from minority groups included photo tagging not working for black faces, image searches returning biased results, body scanner selection at airports disproportionately selecting black women for scans based on hairstyles, and voice assistants defaulting to female.
Capgemini’s report offered a number of suggestions for tackling both a lack of diversity and inclusion in tech teams and bias in tech products and services, including building more inclusive hiring practices, reducing AI and algorithmic biases, and ensuring users from all backgrounds are included in product and services design.
As mentioned, diverse teams build more diverse products, making diverse hiring one of the way to tackle these issues. In its suggestions surrounding diverse hiring, Capgemini hones in on some of these common issues, suggesting taking care around language in job descriptions as well as taking care about referral processes within firms and whether the firm’s culture is inclusive.
It also suggests ensuring transparency around career progression decisions and how career opportunities are decided throughout a company.
Read more about diversity and inclusion in tech
- Women account for around 2-3% of engineering and technology directors in startups and scaleups, says report.
- Morgan-Trimmer delivers a workshop about neurodiverse conditions such as autism, ADHD and dyslexia, including the strengths and challenges of living with these conditions, and what individuals with these conditions can offer to the workplace.