Women hold 24% of technical roles, across 300 Tech Talent Charter signatories, compared with 16% UK-wide, according its annual benchmarking report Diversity in Tech – tracking gender diversity in technology roles across the UK.
The report gathered data from over 300 Tech Talent Charter signatories representing more than 700,000 employees, to give a snapshot of today’s business and technology industry and an insight into practical ways companies can improve gender diversity in tech.
● Micro-companies (1-9 employees) found to be the most gender diverse with women holding 42% of technical roles
● Only 14% of signatories have a target number for women on interview shortlists. Those that did had an higher than
● 65% of signatories have a diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategy and an additional 25% plan to have one in 2020
● Of the 205 signatories doing better than the national average for employing women in tech roles, 38% have a D&I strategy; only 26% of those below the national average had one. This suggests having a D&I strategy is effective at improving the percentage of women in tech roles
● 49% of signatories don’t have a Retraining or Returners programme and have no plans to change this.
Where are women succeeding?
While the Tech Talent Charter report showed that across its signatories, women hold 26% of the technical roles, when broken down into job roles, it is clear that there remains specific technology specialisms where women are less represented.
User-centred design and Data areas both have above average representation, but a striking new outlier is Quality Acceptance (QA) and Testing, where an impressive 48% of roles are held by women.
Percentage of positions held by women (Industrywide)
- Quality Assurance and Testing – 48%
- Data roles – 32%
- User Centred Design – 32%
- Product and Development – 29%
- IT Operations Roles – 25%
- Engineer/Programmer roles – 17%
Looking into why QA and Testing has been successful in attracting female talent, 86% of women said they’d ‘accidentally’ ended up in this role; 23% of individuals reported that they moved into QA and Testing roles as a result of an internal opportunity within their business and 13% reported that they took a QA role as a way to progress in their career because of various blockers to progression in other technical areas. This seems to suggest that roles like these may be seen as customer centric, and as such are easier for women to access.
The data shows clear differences between the size of an organisation and its gender representation in technology roles. Our micro-companies had the highest representation with 42% of all technical roles held by women, in comparison to small companies at 30%, medium at 23% and large at 24%.
Whilst micro-companies have less capacity to deploy investment-heavy diversity and inclusion policies, for instance mentoring or Returners programmes, they have the highest gender diversity. Small tech companies often fare better because organisational structures are flatter. This makes implementing process and cultural change easier and faster. Without the bureaucracy of established companies, start-ups can be more encouraging of gender diversity.
Alan Furley, Director, ISL Recruitment, commented: “Start-ups typically add employees by hiring people they know or strong referrals from their network. So, a diverse team of four will each be able to access their personal network, which will have a good chance of replicating the diversity they represent. Once they reach a tipping point, both in terms of employee growth rate and exhausting the supply of their network, they need to consider a new set of tactics. They need more people than their (diverse) network can cope with.”
Companies are slow to embrace targets for women on interview shortlists
Having targets for the number of women on shortlists has a consistent correlation with higher diversity. Despite this, adoption of this practice is still lagging.
TTC asked companies in the staffing and recruiting sector why shortlists are failing to gain traction. The responses were indicative of systemic difficulties for recruitment in the tech sector:
● Shortage of diverse candidates
● Remuneration system that rewards placing candidates in roles as fast as possible
● Women candidates are less likely to apply for roles for which they do not meet all criteria compared to men who have the same skill-set
Beverley Hamblet-Bowes, HR Director, Nominet, said: “We aim to interview at least one woman for each role. That doesn’t sound a lot, but the recruiting reality means that it is still a stretch. Our challenge is getting the applications in the first place. There’s a tough fight out there for talent.”
Debbie Forster, CEO Tech Talent Charter, said: “It can be tough to ask companies to consistently refocus on recruitment. But, to get the best out of the limited pipeline of tech talent, our research shows that the combination of putting multiple women on shortlists and clear diversity focused goals understood by staffing and recruiting partners can increase the diversity of candidates sourced and hired.”
To find out more about how to make your recruitment processes as inclusive as possible, take a look at TTC’s Open Playbook for best practice.
This year the signatories were asked to indicate what they have found works best for improving diversity in their organisations.
Top 5 Most Frequently Cited Successful D&I Initiatives:
1. Training & Education: Signatories attribute success to including mentoring programmes, return to work programmes, bias training and outreach programmes to schools and colleges
2. Events: Companies believe they have had positive results from attending events like: Women In Tech, WomenHack, SheCanCode, Women of Silicon Roundabout and other events
3. Branding: By changing their branding to be more gender neutral and to target their recruitment efforts specifically at women
4. Flexible working: Success has come from reviewing their flexible working arrangements
5. Sponsorship: Appointing D&I sponsors or committees to focus on diversity matters
In addition to the above, offering opportunities to women returning to work after a career break is an important part of addressing gender diversity in the tech sector. Of the 13% of signatories that have active retraining and/or returners programmes 75% have above the average number of women in tech. Despite this, almost half (49%) of signatories do not have one and do not plan to change this in 2020.
Building a more inclusive organisation – what can you do in 2020?
1. Take steps to build a culture of inclusion by reviewing behaviour and internal processes via a D&I audit.
2. Explore non-traditional training initiatives and alternative pathways that provide under-represented groups with a route into the tech talent pipeline.
3. Set goals for and measure the diversity of candidates on hiring shortlists.
4. Drive change through the supply chain by questioning suppliers on their D&I practise and metrics.
5. Work closely with women and other minority groups to ensure that retraining and returners programmes are appealing, impactful and sustainable.
6. Examine where there are opportunities to partner with organisations to upskill and recruit diverse talent in a regional ecosystem. Get involved with the Tech Talent Charter project in Leeds or contact us to register your interest in running a collaborative programme in your region.
Debbie Forster said: “The importance of diversity is, thankfully, no longer up for debate. We now need to work together to shift the dial – and this will happen a lot quicker if we pool our successes, failures, ideas and learn from them to bring about real structural change in tech businesses and beyond.
“In our inaugural report we stressed the importance of collaboration – this year, alongside our toolkits and open source playbook, we’ll be launching our first regional ecosystem working with companies in Leeds to find jobs for those who wish to return from a work break to a career in tech. We hope to show that business coming together to drive diversity can be a winning solution for both businesses and communities across the UK.
“Looking to the year ahead, we’re going to be growing the scope of the Tech Talent Charter beyond gender diversity to building an inclusive culture for all. This time next year we hope to have insight into best practice on ethnicity, age, disability, social inclusion, mental health and neurodiversity, as well as wider forms of intersectional diversity.
“The key, in our opinion, is to measure – as what gets measured gets done. And to continue learning from each other’s efforts. No company can fix things alone.”
Digital Secretary Nicky Morgan said: “The tech sector is making progress in tackling diversity but there’s still more work to do.
“The government is determined to make sure everyone has the chance to succeed and has contributed more than £350,000 to support the Tech Talent Charter’s push for greater diversity in the sector.
“A diverse workforce is not only good for society but it also makes good business sense. I encourage companies employing technology staff to sign the charter.”
George Brasher, HP’s UK & Ireland MD said: “Businesses have a huge role to play in boosting diversity. Firstly, at a leadership level, they need to set a visible example, both for other firms to follow and also to better attract underrepresented employees. Secondly, well thought-through initiatives can make a difference very quickly at ground level, improving diversity within teams in specific regions or geographies.”
“HP has made progress in both these areas. Over 50% of the UK leadership team are female, while female representation amongst UK&I manager positions has increased 400% since 2014. In terms of initiatives, we have made ‘unconscious bias training’ mandatory for everyone involved with hiring employees, as well as introduced gender neutral job descriptions in response to evidence that women are often discouraged by the language used in job ads.”
Jane Hanson, Nationwide’s Chief People Officer, said: “We are proud to be a member of the Tech Talent Charter and support the Tech Talent Charter Annual Breakfast event 2020. Our mission is to build an even more inclusive culture where every employee can thrive, and for Nationwide to reflect the diverse communities we serve across the UK. We will only be able to continue supporting the evolving needs of the more than 15 million Nationwide members by attracting and retaining talented people of all backgrounds.
“Improving the representation of female talent within our technology departments remains a real area of focus for the Society. We have introduced several programmes to help us attract, develop and retain new talent from diverse backgrounds into a career in technology. Our ‘StarTech’ scheme is designed to give existing colleagues, who have an interest in a tech career but with no previous experience in the sector, hands-on training to develop digital skills. This builds on existing programmes like our mentoring scheme, and we are already attracting more female talent into our tech roles than ever before. We look forward to continuing to build on this in the year ahead.”
The report, sponsored by Nominet, Cisco and CW Jobs was released at a breakfast event at The Gherkin hosted by Nationwide, HP, Cisco, Spinks and Aptum.