by Dinah Williams, Head of Social Media and Engagement
The UK tech sector is expanding at an incredible pace, faster than the rest of the UK economy. However, the tech industry is well known to have issues regarding lack of diversity and under-representation of BAME professionals is one area of focus. Today I want to take a deeper delve into this topic and discuss the solutions organisations should consider overcoming this issue.
According to a survey conducted by Colourintech – an organisation aiming to create more inclusivity in the tech sector, only 4% of the UK tech workplace are from a BAME background. This is disproportionate to the 2011 BAME population accounting for 14% of the total population of England and Wales. The tech sector is an international one, with 8% of directors of non-British nationality, compared to 13% in all other sectors. Inclusive Boards research found that 74.5% of boards in the tech sector had no BAME members and that BAME people made up just 8.5% of senior leaders (Directors and Executives) in the sector – is this purely an organisational issue or are there deeper rooted contributing factors to consider?
There are currently 600K tech positions available in the UK, this is expected to increase to 1 million this year, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committees Digital Skills Crisis Report suggested the digital skills gap is costing the UK economy approximately £63 billion a year in lost potential of GDP. Therefore, it would be fair to conclude, there’s plenty of opportunities for everyone in the industry to progress and succeed.
When we consider this incredible growth opportunity, do we really want to fill these positions with more people who look and act in a similar manner? I believe the answer is, No. There are countless surveys and reports which overwhelming confirm, companies that have a diverse and inclusive workforce, have better commercial success. Customers want to see people that represent them. So, what are some of the challenges with better recruitment and retention of BAME tech professionals?
More than a third (36.6%) of board members and 31% of senior executives in the top tech firms attended private schools compared to just 7% of the wider population. This disproportionate elitism continues in higher education, with 35% of board members and over a quarter (26%) of senior executives attended Oxbridge Universities compared to just 1% of the UK population.
A Royal Society report shows that computer science GCSE is increasingly regarded by teachers and pupils as a ‘difficult option’, one that is only suitable for the most able pupils and pupils who are high achievers in mathematics. If teachers, pupils or parents identify computing as a specialist subject, this will affect the future job prospects of pupils and narrow opportunities for particular groups of young people. Computer Science needs to reflect the diversity that is prevalent in society and become a valuable subject for female pupils and disadvantaged groups including pupils from low socioeconomic backgrounds and ethnic minorities.
Visible Role Models
“BAME communities typically prioritise traditional jobs such as medicine, law and finance over tech” says Sunil Patel, chief operating officer of technology and investments at PwC. “There’s a reluctance in BAME communities to accept those new career options because the work is intangible and invisible,” he says. “An engineer builds things, a doctor saves lives, but you cannot touch code.”
Once we understand the necessary to address the issue from an educational perceptive, we must then consider the lack of visible BAME technology leaders that young people can relate to and aspire to become. “Imposer Syndrome” is most prevalent in black woman than any other social-demographic group. The term first identified by psychologists Suzanne Imes and Pauline Clance in 1978 as “psychological pattern in which an individual doubt’s their accomplishments… despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds, and do not deserve all they have achieved.”. The feeling that you don’t belong or are a fraud, likely to be caught at any moment. The that feeling of ‘otherness’ is magnified tenfold if you are the only person who looks or sounds like you in not just the room, but the whole organisation. If you are unable to see people that look or act similar to you in a progressive position of leadership, it’s highly unlikely you’ll feel a sense of belonging or included.
“Role modelling is fundamental to ensuring equal opportunities and more inclusive cultures, so we need anyone who proves ethnicity need not be a barrier to success to come forward to inspire the next generation of BAME leaders,” Suki Sandhu, CEO and founder of membership organisation OUTstanding, told GrowthBusiness.
I want to take the opportunity to highlight organisations and initiatives that challenge the status quo and working as change champions to address this challenge, these include:
UKBlackTech – UKBlackTech have agents of change when it comes to sustainable diversity initiatives in tech. They design and implement practical initiatives for companies trying to not only recruit a more diverse tech team, but also to retain that diversity in the long run. They often run meetups where companies and candidates can gain more exposure to diversity initiatives and solutions. Their impressive 100-year plan to increase the numbers of Black & Ethnic minorities at all levels in tech is an initiative that offers a promising glance into what the future of diversity in tech could look like if tech becomes a more open place.
Mayor of London Digital Talent Programme – This programme supports diversity and inclusion in tech starting from entry level, The Mayor of London Digital Programme provides free training and resources for eligible young people aged 16-24. The initiative supports diversity because it has a big focus on attracting young women and young people from different backgrounds to take part in the courses. With a funding budget of £7 million, there is potential for the diversity in tech talent pool to increase as a result of the doors this initiative opens for young people in the UK. This diversity initiative also supports employers, teachers and carers by providing them with the tools they need to improve their tech career guidance. The information is easy to access and available to all! There is also a compilation of stories from digital pioneers about how they broke into tech, to inspire and encourage young people who are thinking about a career in tech but are unsure how to break into the industry.
OneTech – OneTech has been created by Capital enterprise and JP Morgan Chase Foundation to help improve the diversity of London tech scene. The programme provides mentorships for founders by matching them with entrepreneurs to give advice on how to get early stage funding. Hopefully they will be able to provide those of a BAME background with the courage and self-believe to create tech start-ups. Their aim is to double the number of female and BAME founders by 2020.
Here at In Diverse Company, we would love to hear your thoughts on this topic and are always wanting to hear for positive examples of change and best practise. Please share your thoughts in the comments or contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org