A Deep-Dive into the UK’s Diversity in Tech
A recent report from Tech Talent Charter (TTC) has shone a light on diversity within the UK tech industry.
Here, we examine its findings and see what more needs to be done.
According to the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology, the digital skills gap costs the UK economy almost £63 billion every year. In order to close the gap and influence lives in a positive way, it’s vital that people from all parts of society contribute to and benefit from the tech economy.
The report’s snapshot of the state of digital in the UK has been compiled from a wide base of signatories – 210,245 employee roles within 649 organisations, who between them employ over 930,000 people, submitted data, making it one of the largest, broadest and most current analyses of its kind.
The results demonstrate that diversity and inclusion (D&I) still faces serious challenges – we’re in the middle of a cost of living crisis, D&I budgets are under pressure, and diversity is being pushed down the agenda. It also comes at a time when 81% of UK managers say that the digital skills gap is affecting their business.
The report focuses on eight ‘lenses’:
Underserved health journeys
Mental health and wellbeing
These groupings are an attempt to understand a wider variety of D&I areas that businesses need to concentrate on, as well as to highlight areas where more work is needed.
Let’s examine each one individually.
A recent report by Code First Girls and NatWest suggested that if the tech sector achieved gender parity, an additional £2.6 billion could be added to the UK economy annually.
However, despite efforts over the years, gender disparity remains the top area of concern for the TTC report. Tech Nation reports that only 19% of the entire tech workforce are women, compared to 50.57% of the population.
In the TTC report, gender minorities fared somewhat better, with an average representation of 28%, but the momentum to achieve equality is slow and challenging.
The report suggests three main points on which to concentrate:
Increasing the number of gender minorities entering the industry.
Ensuring they have the appropriate skills to immediately meet the needs of the industry.
Ensuring that they are encouraged to stay.
The report also suggests that efforts must be made to encourage women into the most in-demand and highly-paid roles, such as software engineering and IT operations. This could be achieved by higher rates of retention supported by more focus on issues such as poor promotion opportunities, lack of support from senior leaders/role models, other commitments and sexism/gender bias, as found by research by We Are The City and Ipsos. TTC urges organisations to identify and address the disincentives and barriers that women face so they can achieve their full potential.
In the case of non-binary employees, less than 0.1% were reported in the research – a statistic impacted by the fact that only 35% of signatories measure non-binary genders. Where information was available - for example, on the gender diversity of senior tech employees - the report found that gender minorities accounted for 22% of senior tech positions, which is 6% lower than in the general TTC tech workforce.
Underserved Health Journeys
Research by the CIPD in 2019 found that 3 out of 5 menopausal women say that the menopause has a negative impact on them at work, and 1 in 4 don’t get the support they need. With the growing need for retention among gender minorities and better gender diversity, menopause support is crucial.
Just 41 signatories offered corporate support for menopause, but many of them also provided support for other underserved health journeys, such as gender reassignment, infertility disease, fertility journeys, pregnancy loss and enhanced parental policies.
When these policies were present within organisations, gender diversity was higher, individuals fared better when these policies were well-communicated, and support was easy to access.
The British Computer Society (BCS), which is the Chartered Institute for IT, estimated that in 2020 the UK tech workforce has 18% ethnic minority representation. The TTC report found that over a quarter of the 137,000 tech employees in this year’s findings identify as being part of an ethnic minority group.
However, within senior roles, only 13% of senior tech employees were ethnic minorities – almost half of the proportion of the tech workforce overall, demonstrating a clear lack of equitable career progression or retention.
The report hopes that organisations can use the statistics revealed to create fair work and promotion processes, and create company cultures that enable and encourage ethnic minority tech employees to not only find employment, but thrive within that environment.
The socioeconomic background of tech employees is a vital but often overlooked indicator of D&I within a workforce, but only 38% of signatories had measurement processes in place. The Bridge Group, a non-profit consultancy that uses research to promote social equality, found in 2020 that the UK tech workforce is highly unrepresentative of the UK workforce when it comes to socioeconomic background, with the barriers widening with seniority and in certain tech occupations.
Given that increasing social mobility could increase the UK’s annual GDP by £45 billion and fill the tech skills gap, as well as ‘level up’ geographical areas of deprivation, the choice to include people from less privileged socioeconomic backgrounds makes both economic and moral sense.
It is hoped that more organisations will include social mobility in their D&I processes. Where it intersects with other protected characteristics it has a profound effect, and increases diversity levels – for example, including it increased the average proportion of ethnic minority employees by 6%, compared to the TTC UK workforce as a whole.
The University of Edinburgh estimates that around 1 in 7 people (over 15% of the UK population) are neurodivergent. Increasing numbers of signatories are recognising the value that neuroinclusion can bring to their organisations, and over half are now measuring neurodivergence in their workforce – more than twice the number in last year’s report.
We’ve discussed the importance of offering neurodiverse candidates support in the interview process here, but more organisations are realising the value of flexible, highly-individualised, needs-led support to individuals whose requirements will vary from person to person.
The report suggests that employees need to be guided by how an individual identifies, experiences and labels their neurotype, rather than by how it presents or how it is perceived by other people, and that flexibility helps everyone to optimise their work environment, not just neurodiverse people.
With later diagnoses becoming more prevalent, it’s also important that organisations support their employees whenever they need it, and at whatever point in their career they are at.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) says that there are now 14.6 million people in the UK with a disability – this represents 22% of the total population – and this figure is rising, up from 18% in 2021.
This massive pool of underemployed talent could add an extraordinary amount to the tech industry, utilising untapped talent and bringing diversity of thought. Making adjustments for them to be included is usually simple and cost-effective, and, with the popularity of remote and flexible working, as well as the rapid development of assistive technology, the tech industry is a natural home for disabled people with digital skills.
79% of TTC signatories are now measuring disability diversity, in order to include the diverse range of thought that disabled people bring to an organisation. This can improve products and services in the market, but it can only happen when disabled people are valued, supported and empowered, through a needs-led approach and the identification of the adjustments an individual might require.
Mental Health and Wellbeing
The Mental Health Foundation states that 1 in 6 adults in the UK has a mental health disorder. This includes anxiety and depression, which affects 7.8% of the UK population - the symptoms of which are exacerbated by socioeconomic disadvantage, and which cause 20% of days lost from work in the UK.
Mental ill health affects non-binary people, women, multi-ethnic and white ethnic groups, as well as carers, disproportionately more than other people. In addition, research by Covid Social Mobility Opportunities (COSMO) also suggests that almost half of young people now experience mental health problems, up by 25% on 2018 data.
The report suggests that organisations classify mental health and well-being either as part of their disability targets or as a standalone issue, but when it was mentioned, support came in the form of mental health/wellbeing champions, mental health training for line managers, recharge days, more flexible bereavement policies, discretionary days off without disclosure being a requirement, and providing tools and services such as apps and wellbeing platforms.
Perhaps the most under-discussed protected characteristic when it comes to D&I, age also carries powerful stereotypes and a disturbing level of discrimination – the average UK tech worker first experiences ageism at the age of 29, almost ten years younger than the average UK worker.
The tech sector may favour younger people for a number of reasons – the cost of recruiting and retaining experienced tech talent during a recession, the readiness of younger people to accept lower salaries, younger tech recruiters having unconscious bias against older people, and the perceived problematic practice of older people reporting to younger managers all have an effect.
89% of signatories collected data on the age of their employees, but just 35% undertook any action to improve age or generational diversity. Benefits packages specifically intended to attract and retain older people included life insurance, enhanced pension plans, and critical illness cover. These types of benefits have been designed to appeal to long-term unemployed people and those who were particularly badly-impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic fallout – the over 50s and the under 25s.
An overview of D&I in the UK tech industry
The report hopes that the insights it provides will help organisations improve their D&I through knowledge sharing across the tech industry, offering ideas for discussion and action.
The top ten findings are as follows:
1. 28% of tech workers are gender minorities, slightly higher than past years (+1-2%)
2. Only 35% of companies are measuring non-binary gender diversity
3. 25% of tech workers belong to ethnic minority groups, compared to 20% reported last year
4. Average disclosure rates for ethnic identity are at 76-86%
5. 22% of senior tech roles are held by gender minorities - 6% lower than tech roles overall
6. Ethnic diversity almost halves in senior roles from 25% to 13%
7. D&I measurement and practice on social mobility lags far behind other areas, including age, religion and orientation
8. Flexible work options are widely available for tech employees and nearly half (47%) have the option to work remotely as much as they like
9. Neurodiversity emerged as a distinct area of interest; the number of organisations measuring it doubled to 53%, compared to last year
10. Mental health and wellbeing and reproductive health issues such as the menopause and fertility are areas of focus for many organisations, especially in relation to gender, age and LGBTQ+ inclusion.
The UK tech sector employs over 3 million people, is worth $1 trillion (£834,150,000) annually, and retained its number one spot in Europe’s tech ecosystem in 2022. If D&I can be ‘turbocharged’ we can create a highly-skilled, diverse workforce capable of growing the economy and providing opportunities for many more people.
This depends on three factors:
Training, reskilling and upskilling people
Improving retention, development and promotion in an inclusive culture
Using evidence-based practices to benefit employees everywhere through better inclusion, attraction and retention.
You can download a full copy of the report here.
Get in touch with Global ResourcingIf you’d like to know more about the wide variety of diverse tech roles we have on offer in the public and non-profit sectors, either as an organisation or as a candidate, call us on +44 020 8253 1800 or fill in the form here.