BAME IT specialists better qualified, but less likely to be in top jobs

New BCS study reveals how BAME IT specialists are treated, despite the rising level of representation in the industry

A new study has found that despite being, on the whole, better qualified, BAME IT specialists are less likely to be in top jobs than their white counterparts. Research reveals that only 9% of BAME IT specialists were directors and 32% of BAME workers described themselves as a manager or supervisor compared with 43% of white workers.

Despite this, the overall percentage of BAME workers in IT is relatively high, according to the BCS’ 2020 Diversity Report. The report also found that almost nine in ten BAME IT professionals hold a degree or higher education level qualifications, compared with just two-thirds of their white counterparts.

The level of representation amongst IT specialists is slowly rising and has increased by two percentage points over the past five years compared with a rise of one percentage point for the UK workforce as a whole. The latest figures also show that BAME IT specialists make up 18% of their workforce, 2% more than the national average.

Breaking down BAME representation in the industry, those of Indian ethnicity were almost three times as prominent among IT specialists that within the workforce at a whole. Following that, the next most ethnic groups are from Black/ African/ Caribbean/ Black British backgrounds at 2%, and Pakistani / Bangladeshi also at 2%.

Refreshingly, the report finds no evidence of a pay gap between ethnic groups as a whole. In 2019, BAME IT specialists working as full-time employees were earning the same as IT specialists as a whole – with median hourly rates in each case of £21.

BAME representation was lowest within the manufacturing sector where just 8% of IT specialists were from BAME groups. Also, BAME IT specialists are much less likely than others to find employment from others already in post, at just 10% compared with 18% of white IT specialists over the 2015-19 period.

The most common IT career for BAME IT specialists was that of Business Analyst, Architect & System Designer, and in 2019 just over one quarter (26%) were found to be working in these positions – where salaries for the most experienced can be more than £50k.

On the other hand, the least common role was that of Web Designer, which though associated with top salaries in the region of £40k, was held by only 9% of BAME IT specialists. Individuals from BAME groups account for 14% of the working-age population in 2019.

Dr Sam De Silva, a technology partner at international law firm CMS and a BCS Trustee and member of the BCS Society Board, said: “It is extremely disappointing to see that according to this report people from BAME backgrounds are likely to be more qualified than their white counterparts, but less likely to be in positions of responsibility. However, it is positive to see that there is no evidence of a pay gap between the different ethnic groups.  

“The figures show that there is generally still a long way to go before there is greater diversity in the IT sector. More must be done to encourage people from groups that are currently marginalised to take up a career in this sector.

“Clearly, the right person must be picked for the right job, but there needs to be a more inclusive recruitment approach. IT should be promoted as a great sector that welcomes everyone, no matter what their background, ethnicity or gender.

“IT is fundamental to the development of our society and its economy. Accordingly, it needs to be fully representative of all communities to serve all of society truly. This is particularly important for the development of new technology, such as AI where things like bias have the potential to lead to unfortunate outcomes.

“We continually hear from Government that there is a significant skills shortage in the IT sector, and one way to address this is by making the IT profession attractive and accessible to all.”
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