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Young people in tech unhappy despite inclusion push

Businesses claim to be working on improving inclusion internally, but many young people still feel ill at ease in the tech sector

Only around a quarter of young people working in tech have had an “entirely positive” experience so far in the sector, according to Wiley Edge.

In a survey of 18 to 24 year olds in the UK (44% of whom work in tech) and business leaders from various industries, the skills and talent provider found that 21% of young people in the sector have had a “mostly negative” experience, despite 65% of businesses claiming they try hard to make their internal culture inclusive.

Tom Seymour, senior director of human resources (HR) at Wiley Edge, said: “Our findings indicate that it’s not the nature of the work itself that is an issue for most unhappy young tech employees. Instead, the research suggests that many businesses are still struggling to establish an inclusive, welcoming environment, which is having a negative impact on the wellbeing of their tech teams.”

Young people have claimed to be leaving the technology sector because of bad culture, and many employees believe more needs to be done to promote diversity in the industry.

For those who have enjoyed either all or some of their experience in the sector, 28% said that they enjoyed the work they were doing and found it interesting, and 20% said they felt welcomed by their colleagues.

But only 20% said they liked the internal culture at the company they work at, with women 22% less likely to state that they enjoy the culture at their place of work.

Women were also less likely to say they felt well-supported in the tech workplace, while men were more likely to say they felt welcomed by their colleagues at work. Some 11% of young people believe that the sector is too male-dominated.

This figure changes depending on gender, with only 4% of young men saying the sector is too male-dominated, compared with 19% of young women.

When it comes to ethnicity, 17% of people in tech from a black African background said they don’t feel welcomed by their colleagues in the tech workplace, as opposed to 11% of all respondents, and 22% of people in tech from a black African background actively dislike their company’s culture.

Almost half of younger people in the tech sector have at some point felt uncomfortable at work because of their gender, ethnicity, background or neurodivergence.

Young people not already in the sector claimed they’re not confident about how to make tech their career, with a number of misconceptions about what is involved in a tech career still acting as a deterrent.

Almost 15% of the young people asked who were not already in the sector said they know nothing about tech careers, with 29% believing they don’t have the right qualifications for a job in the sector.

Women have more doubts about the sector than men – 23% of women believe their maths and science skills aren’t up to scratch enough for a tech job, compared with 13% of men; and 19% of women doubt they’re smart enough for the sector, compared with 13% of men.

Almost 15% of women said that a lack of role models puts them off entering the sector, compared with only 8% of men.

Only 5% of young people said that a lack of ethnic diversity is a deterrent to pursuing a tech career, although this varies based on the ethnicity of the person asked, with the breakdown being: 9% of young people from mixed raced backgrounds, 10% of people from an Asian background, and almost 36% of people from a black background.

Almost a quarter of young people from a black background pointed out a lack of relatable role models in the sector.

Many businesses are working towards building a more inclusive culture to help increase the diversity in their firms and clear up some of these misconceptions – 65% of businesses across several sectors are trying to build a more inclusive culture in their firms through various methods.

Almost 20% of business leaders said they had actually received complaints that diversity and inclusion initiatives were not good enough. But 36% of business leaders said one of the reasons they are working on diversity and inclusion in the workplace is to make their company look good, with only 23% said they are working on it because it’s the right thing to do.

More than half of businesses said they struggle to recruit young people from diverse backgrounds, although 60% said they are more likely to only hire graduates from top universities, and 64% said they’re finding it hard to retain underrepresented people once they’ve joined – 27% of young people who have thought about leaving a tech role said it was because of a lack of feeling like they belong in the company.

Daniele Grassi, vice-president and chief operating ffficer at Wiley Edge, said in the report that “current tactics” for encouraging young people into the technology sector aren’t working, despite employers looking for tech talent at a higher rate than other types of roles.

For example, Wiley Edge found only a quarter of companies have “exit interviews” or feedback from past employees, suggesting businesses are not giving themselves the opportunity to rectify possible mistakes.

Seymour added: “In our experience, many businesses are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of an effective diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) strategy. However, this research shows it’s not necessarily a given that these values will filter down into every team.

“It’s vital to ensure that a business’s culture and values are consistently embodied by those in senior leadership and management positions, with any inappropriate behaviour dealt with quickly and decisively.”

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