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The Issue with Diversity in Tech

Technology | Chloe Pearson | 23/2/17

diversity in tech

It’s the 21st century, so you’d expect that all workplaces are fully diverse, especially so in the tech industry where big tech firms Apple, Google, and Facebook have mantras such as “diversity makes us stronger” and are actively opposing the recent US ‘travel ban’.

Such statements by tech giants should be a continuation of their track record of diversity, however, the harsh reality is that on self-reflection the American tech industry is still mostly ‘a bastion of white, male privilege’. This has in particular been brought to light this week with an exposing blog post by a former female employee at Uber.

Susan Fowler’s post ‘Reflecting on one very, very strange year at Uber’ is wholly shocking. We all know women are under-represented in tech and Uber is no different with according to Fowler only 3% of the SRE teams being women, but worse still, there is a culture of male dominance and harassment with an organisational apathy for these issues. It comes in the same week celebrating women in engineering (with ‘Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day‘) and at a time of mass concern about xenophobia across the world. Once again, opening up the debate on diversity in the workplace and how much work there is still to do.

 

Brits in tech are more diverse than the US… but there’s still a way to go

Back in 2015 the UK tech industry was declared as ‘far more diverse than the US’ in a study conducted by Wayra. This was most evident when it came to business owners, with entrepreneurs in London three times more likely to be female than in Silicon Valley. It also found that individuals in the UK capital are also twice as likely to come from a black or minority ethnic background than in New York.

That’s not to say Britain is the gold standard of employee diversity, especially in the wake of Brexit. Inside Out London discovered this first hand in conducting a study by sending CVs from two candidates who had identical skills and experience but their names – one candidate was called ‘Adam’ and the other ‘Mohamed.’

In response to applying for 100 job opportunities, ‘Adam’ was offered 12 interviews, while Mohamed was offered only 4. These results are baffling, considering the fake candidates had exactly the same skills and experience, supporting previous academic studies that have found ‘British Muslims are less proportionately represented in managerial and professional occupations than any other religious group’.

Further research by the University of Bristol reveals ‘Muslim men are 76% less likely to be employed than their white Christian counterparts’. This name bias has led many to use a different name on their CV entirely. In response to this in 2015 the government urged leading companies and universities to remove names from application forms, to stop the ‘unconscious ethnic bias’ against potential hires.

The UK also has some catching up to do when it comes to gender equality compared with other countries. In PwC’s latest Women in Work Index that ranks countries based on their equality in employment and salaries, Britain is placed in at a respectable 13th place up from 17th in 2000. Showing we have come some way since then, however, there are other countries that still put ours to shame. Iceland landed the no.1 spot for its equality, ahead of Sweden, Norway and New Zealand following suit. Read more about the report here

 

Combating the issue of diversity in tech

Efforts to diversify by the tech industry usually go little further than beyond the talent attraction pipeline. Although in theory, this should be the perfect place to combat the lack of diversity, evidence shows that despite nearly 18% of US black and Latino individuals holding computer science degrees only 5% go on to achieve a job in the tech industry.

It is clear from this that prejudice goes on beyond purely the initial CV stage and affects candidates throughout the application process.  One company that knows this better than most is Airbnb. Transparent about their commitment to the diversity of their employee base, they have publicly stated time lined goals for increasing the number of minorities and women working tech within the company. How? By actively encouraging all staff, particularly hiring managers to rethink how they source talent.

 

Rethinking talent sourcing

Back in the summer of 2016, non-profit organisation Colorintech announced the UK’s first diversity platform, created to ‘change the way tech companies hire’ by connecting talented students from ethnic and gender minority backgrounds to UK tech companies and start-ups to change the status quo of talent sourcing.

The UK STEM industry is also working on ways to encourage and increase diversity in the hiring process. Women make up only 17% of IT professionals and out of 25.5% of engineering/tech first degrees awarded to people from black and ethnic minority backgrounds – only 6% are in professional engineering roles. To combat this The Royal Academy of Engineering and the Science Council are launching a new framework to aid professional bodies to assess and monitor their progress on diversity and inclusion.

Addressing diversity in the talent sourcing process is ultimately down to the company to engage with their CTOs and hiring managers. Some big businesses still resort to the systematic racial bias or even tokenism, employing only one or a few people from minority groups to give the appearance of a diverse workforce. This is counterproductive to creating inclusive and effective teams. When tackling the challenges that come with diversifying a tech business, such as culture clashes and divisions within the team it is down to the managers to motivate the team to collaborate despite differences and encourage an inclusive environment which ultimately creates success for the company.

As having a diverse workforce is not just about corporate responsibility and reputation, fairness and common decency, it’s also good for business.

 

The upsides to diversity in tech

A more diverse workforce not only makes sense in terms of moral imperative for a company’s culture but also in terms of business sense, leading to an increased financial performance. With research showing companies in the top quartile for gender, racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have higher financial returns than the national median in their industry. So there you have it, diversity is good for business!

 

Not only is it good for business, it’s a cause worth fighting for.

Whilst there are more platforms and frameworks being created encouraging businesses to tackle diversity in tech, there is still a long way to go. Especially so with a recent report by PwC claiming that the gender pay gap won’t close until 2041. Without big tech businesses making changes from within and adopting new positive attitudes towards diversity then, discrimination, gender, ethnic and racial bias will continue to pose risks for the industry.

 

 

We have high hopes for diversity in tech and hope there will be further great changes being made across the industry to make it a fully diverse sector.

Eligo technology are proud to be an equal qualities employer and confirm our commitment to equality of opportunity in all areas of recruitment. At Eligo we recruit with the ethos that all individuals will be treated in a fair and equal manner and in accordance with the law regardless of gender, marital status, race, religion, colour, age, disability or sexual orientation.

If you are looking for a new role in technology or looking for candidates, we can help you with your recruitment needs. You can check out our latest Technology Jobs, or contact us via rick@eligo.co.uk or 02089444180.

 

 

Articles you may also be interested in;
What more could be done to advance women in tech?
How to use social media to attract tech talent.

 

 

Sources

https://www.wired.com/2017/02/tech-still-doesnt-get-diversity-heres-fix
http://www.cityam.com/259416/uk-opportunities-women-workplace-have-rapidly-improved-but
https://diversityuk.org/plans-improve-diversity-science-engineering/
https://www.recruitment-international.co.uk/blog/2016/07/uks-first-diversity-platform-for-tech-sector-launches
http://techcitynews.com/2017/02/15/heres-how-we-can-solve-techs-diversity-crisis/
http://uk.businessinsider.com/uk-tech-scene-diversity-us-london-2015-6
https://www.susanjfowler.com/blog/2017/2/19/reflecting-on-one-very-strange-year-at-uber
https://blog.jobbio.com/2017/02/14/the-benefits-and-challenges-of-having-a-diverse-team/
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-38751307
http://www.managementtoday.co.uk/countries-equal-women-work/women-in-business/article/1424853#mbY3KiV6LbtSttAW.02

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