Is it time the tech sector took a serious look at its diversity problem?

Diversity

With recent reports coming out that Millennials are now seeking roles that prioritise diversity, and companies like Ericson realising that diversity is the key to maximising businesses, does the IT sector also need to make a change when it comes to representation and identity?

Not only does creating a more diverse workplace increase the overall reputation of a company, but a blog from Wonolo suggests that just some of the benefits of having people from all backgrounds includes increased creativity, increased productivity and improved performance.

It’s no secret that the majority of firms in any industry in the UK are led by white, middle-class, heterosexual, able bodied men. But in a sector that moves so quickly with the times, it sometimes feels as though social representation in the field doesn’t keep up.

In fact, a report from The Guardian last year showed that the tech sector is seriously lagging behind in its diversity hiring. It suggested just 8.5% of leaders were from BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) backgrounds and 12.6% of board members in the field were women.

Women in tech

According to the tech publication Wired, in 2018 just 31% of Facebook’s employees were woman. This was the same for Apple too. Wired continued that the amount of white male graduates majoring in computer science in the US is rising way faster than any other ethnic group or gender.

One reason they believe that women are not drawn toward the tech field is because of outdated stereotypes and depictions that are presented to women in the sector.  Apple do say, however, they are working towards changing this hiring statistic.

Sharon Hamilton, Managing Director at Edgware Testing says that although she has never had a problem in getting a job in IT, however, she has noticed a gender imbalance when it comes to senior roles.

“In my career, I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve never really felt held back because of my gender – that when it comes to business there isn’t any difference between me or a man…However, I do think that there’s a little bit of imbalance between genders in terms of seniority within the tech sector. I think the average throughout the world is that only 25% of the people working in tech are female. That just seems crazy.”

Talking of her experience in a senior role, Hamilton adds: “A lot of people in the workforce have children and that really does have an impact. Men and women need to be treated the same in terms of having childcare responsibilities, and general parenting responsibilities. Men come into me with childcare issues and I don’t treat them any differently. I don’t assume that, if they’ve got a partner, that the mother should automatically be responsible for childcare. This change in process and beliefs will help females to rise.”

Time for a change

It isn’t just gender roles that needs a change. According to Tech Nation, only 15% of employees in the digital workforce in the UK are from BAME backgrounds.

And in terms of disabled people, a blog coming out of University of St Andrews suggests that “Around one fifth of Scotland’s population – that’s one million people – define themselves as disabled. Yet disabled people often experience higher levels of inequality compared to their non-disabled peers. Only about 50% of disabled people of working age are in work compared to 80% of non-disabled people of working age.”

People need to be represented in more places outside of work too, too. At conferences and events, it is important for people from all backgrounds to give talks on their IT expertise. Speaking to an end-users at a recent DevOps event in London, numerous people mentioned the lack of representation they experience at the majority of conferences they attend. One user even added that was the first event they had ever  been to that had wheelchair access.

It’s vital we are to live in a society that helps to close the gender pay gap, boosts support for the LGBTQ+ community and accepts religious differences.  Everyone needs to make sure that it is doing what it can to make people feel included to allow people to thrive. And IT firms are not exempt from playing their part.

 

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