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There are fewer opportunities for people from under-represented groups in the UK’s tech sector to hold leadership positions, according to research by Thoughtworks.
Looking into figures from the BCS, Thoughtworks found that of the 300,000 IT specialists from ethnic minorities in the UK in 2020, only 37% were in “positions of responsibility”, compared with 41% of their white counterparts.
IT workers from ethnic minorities were also twice as likely to be in non-permanent positions than white IT workers.
Amy Lynch, head of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) at Thoughtworks UK, said: “Whether it is age, gender or ethnic diversity, we have to be honest that the tech sector is out of balance. But we can change this. Change happens with positive action, effective policies and hard work. There is a wealth of talent out there that does not fit a preconceived ‘mould’ and importantly could offer a fresh perspective to a sector that relies on innovation and different ways of thinking.
“A strong DEI culture will be an important differentiator in the quest to attract and retain the best talent, too. It is the responsibility of leaders within the sector to create paths to give groups that feel technology is not for them, the confidence to apply for jobs.”
A lack of diversity in the UK’s tech sector has been an ongoing issue, with negative misconceptions about the sector, such as a lack of work-life balance and poor company culture, often factoring into firms being unable to recruit or retain people from under-represented groups.
Work is being done to move towards a more equitable technology sector in the future, but despite knowing it is important to get the ball rolling on diversity and inclusion initiatives, many don’t know where to start, or are too scared to bring up diversity issues at work.
Thoughtworks’ own research found that 33% of people in the tech sector said their place of work has no plans for the career development of under-represented groups in tech despite three out of five businesses in the sector agreeing that more needs to be done to address the lack of diversity, inclusion and equity in the industry.
Almost a quarter of IT workers also said they don’t think their firms have plans to work on developing representation, allyship or understanding for minority groups.
Read more about diversity in the UK’s tech sector
- The pandemic helped many organisations get on top of their diversity and inclusion initiatives, say business leaders in tech and other sectors.
- There are many routes into technology, and many different skillsets that contribute to making great tech work, so people need to be ‘less apologetic’ for a less technical skillset, says Poppy Gustafsson, this year’s Most Influential Woman in UK Tech.
But these are among the biggest issues for tech firms when it comes to delivering on plans for diversity and inclusion, with 69% of IT firms saying they are behind when it comes to career development for workers in minority groups, 64% saying they need to work more on representation of minority groups at senior levels of the organisation, and 64% saying they are behind on addressing allyship and understanding for minority groups.
Firms also admitted to being behind when it comes to ensuring diversity in recruitment practices and offering equitable pay and opportunity for minority groups.
In 2020, BCS figures found that women accounted for 17% of IT specialists in the UK, and about 8% of IT specialists are of Indian ethnicity, 2% from a black, African, Caribbean or black British background, and 2% from a Pakistani or Bangladeshi background.
Although businesses are more aware of the business benefit of diversity within their organisations, many are still more focused on tackling gender split than ethnic diversity.
Just over 40% of companies have plans to tackle gender diversity in their organisations as opposed to just 29% for ethnicity – the tech sector was also slightly less likely than other industries to have a focus around improving representation of people with disabilities or those who are neurodivergent.
Of the UK tech firms that are actively working on improving DEI, about a quarter have mentoring for members of minority groups, and around the same proportion have invested in diversity and inclusion training.
Thankfully, there is more of an understanding now of why it is important to address these issues, according to Thoughtworks, including staff retention and developing better relationships among the employees in an organisation.