Tech organisations met at London’s Here East innovation campus to discuss collective approaches to tackling low diversity in London’s tech firms. But will this lead to real action or more hot air?
With addresses by Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, and Jacqueline de Rojas, President of techUK, the Tech for D&Iversity 2022 event held on March 31st brought renewed energy to a topic that is well known but has taken a back seat in the industry due to external factors like Brexit and COVID-19.
London tech firms – low on racial and gender diversity
The event followed the release of the Tech for Diversity 2022 report by tech community organisations Tech London Advocates (TLA) and Global Tech Advocates, which found that London’s reputation as a place of diversity isn’t reflected in its tech companies at board level.
The report that involved respondents from TLA’s network of UK tech leaders, experts and investors found that three-quarters of London firms have nearly no people of colour in senior leadership roles, and only 7% have all-female senior leadership teams.
These statistics aren’t only concerning for workplace equity; tech leaders fear it could also impact London’s tech scene’s innovative reputation. Over half (51%) of survey respondents thought current inequity could hinder London’s stance as a global tech hub, yet 45% agreed that external factors, including Brexit and COVID-19, have stalled the progress of diversity in the industry.
Aside from the lack of diverse racial and ethnic representation, especially at senior levels, the report confirms that gender diversity is still a major issue and has remained largely unchanged over the years.
A majority (62%) of respondents said women in senior leadership teams “remain in a minority” with representation figures stagnating over six years.
On a UK-wide scale, statistics from Tech Nation highlight the extent of tech’s gender problem. Only 19% of UK tech workers are women, compared to 49% of UK workers beyond the sector. What’s more, the female deficit in UK tech workforces hasn’t changed much since 2000, highlighting the proactive work needed amongst British tech firms to recruit and retain more women.
Bridging the gap between sentiment and action
Despite these poor statistics, the survey shows some positive sentiments within the tech industry. For example, over half (58%) of respondents believe it has become more inclusive in the past five years, while 42% are confident that truly diverse companies will develop in the next decade.
However, sentiments aren’t enough to create inclusive change. During the recent Tech for D&Iversity 2022 event, Tech London Advocates launched/revealed their TLA Mentoring Programme to bring more young people and diverse voices into tech. A much-needed initiative considering the poor diversity figures revealed in their report.
TLA’s example proves that tech organisations should address these statistics on diversity, no matter how dire, with solutions, such as new initiatives that seek to challenge change the status quo.
Russ Shaw CBE, Founder of Tech London Advocates and Global Tech Advocates, said: “The tech sector is still sorely lacking in diversity and inclusion (D&I), and that is simply wrong. The data shows that after many years, the UK tech sector is still struggling to shift the needle when it comes to making this flourishing industry inclusive to all.
“Tech leaders can no longer side-line issues of diversity and inclusion and must consistently ‘walk the talk’. There is no time to waste here – the industry must take action before it is too late and the benefits D&I can bring to the UK tech sector slip away.
“Fundamentally, technology should be inclusive and open to everyone. If we seize the opportunity now with practical steps and effective strategies, we can set the foundations for a future-facing sector that can keep growing and maturing, strengthened by the diversity of the talent which supports it.”