Nov 26th 2019

News Update: Concerning lack of diversity in the tech sector

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Lack of diversity 

The Evening Standard has found that only 3% of the technology industry’s employees in the capital are black despite black people making up 13% of the city’s population. And this trend is not confined to black workers. Colorintech showed only 4% of the UK’s tech industry are BAME.

Russ Shaw, founder of the Tech London Advocates told the Evening Standard that there is an existence of a ‘tech bro culture’ whereby white males only hire white males. Shaw mentions the recruitment agents used by tech bosses hired from the same white pool of workers. He added that when start-ups raise money, investors want control of their recruitment process and had the same attitude over who were selected as the agents.

This approach to hiring and neglect around promoting a diverse workforce is concerningly institutionalised throughout the recruitment process.

Importance of diversity

A lack of diversity amongst workforces is not only morally concerning, but it is also bad for business. Diversity fosters a more innovative and creative culture by exposing employees to varied skill sets and fresh perspectives. According to Josh Bersin’s research, companies with diverse teams are 1.7 times more likely to be innovative leaders in their market. Diverse, collaborative teams also experience a 60% improvement in decision making – a vital feature in a working world that demands agility.

Diversity plays a critical role in attracting candidates, particularly Gen Z; 63% feel it is most important to work with people from diverse backgrounds and skill sets and an additional 20% think having people from different cultures is the most important element to a team.

There is a clear business case for diversity and the impact it has on inclusion, innovation and talent attraction. By restricting diversity, the tech sector is cutting itself off from the business benefits a diverse and inclusive workforce presents.

Promoting diversity

In acknowledgement of the lack of diversity, a series of initiatives have been launched aiming to tackle the under-representation of minority groups within the tech sector. London Mayor Sadiq Khan launched a £7m initiative to help attract BAME Londoners into the sector by providing free industry-approved digital skills training. This programme aims to inspire young people to join the capital’s tech and creative industries sector and tackle the under-representation of women and BAME Londoners. In June earlier this year London tech star Deborah Okenla launched a pre-accelerator programme to support under-represented groups launch start-ups in London.

These progressive initiatives are positive steps to levelling out the playing field and plugging skills gaps amongst candidates from different socio-economic backgrounds. But to ensure these programmes effectively create diverse workforces, hiring teams need to proactively ensure their hiring strategies promote diverse hiring.

Hiring teams should examine their talent attraction and hiring strategy in a holistic sense from the point of attraction right through to the point of hire, removing any barriers to entry or anything that may trigger unconscious bias.

Job specs may use wording that is particularly exclusive or masculine, or a lack of diverse make-up of a hiring team may lead to hiring similar sets of candidates. Specific hiring criteria may reinforce bias, I.E. prioritising candidates from a Russell Group university, which have on average have a much smaller proportion of black students than other universities – less than 4% compared with the UK average of 8%.

By examining each stage of the recruitment process, hiring teams promote diversity and remove barriers that were previously imposed upon candidates from different races, ethnicities or socio-economic backgrounds.

Takeaways

As stated by Tottenham MP, David Lammy: ‘The under-representation of black workers in UK tech is deeply disappointing. Big tech corporations and start-ups must do more to find talent from all backgrounds’. This is not only the case with black workers, but BAME workers from ranging socio-economic backgrounds.

With London named the world’s top tech hub with leaders descending on the capital, job opportunities within the sector has flourished; job creation within the FinTech sector increased by 61% in the last year. It’s important to encourage greater inclusion across these opportunities and promote a culture of diversity. Not only is this good for business and will ensure the sector remains thriving, but also that London remains open to investment and talent from around the world.

In order to create an inclusive working environment, a commitment to promoting diversity needs to be present at all stages of the talent attraction strategy to be effective. This includes the attraction piece right through to the hiring process itself. Progressive programmes are positive steps to promoting inclusion, but if hiring processes or teams are biased, then these initiatives will be futile.

 

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