Why retraining and data sharing will create diverse tech roles

Currently there aren't enough women and ethnic minorities represented in UK tech roles. With a global skills shortage on the horizon, firms need to start hiring from a more diverse talent pool

Diverse tech roles aren’t the norm yet. While more firms are engaging with their data to tackle inclusion inequality, there’s discomfort in reporting D&I issues, which could increase the skills shortage.

Non-profit organisation the Tech Talent Charter (TCC) has released its yearly ‘Diversity in Tech report’ which records the inclusion and diversity efforts of its signatories such as Unilever, HP, and Lloyds Banking Group.

The 2020 report has broken new ground as it “tracks ethnicity data for the first time,” according to a shared statement where TTC signatories are “making progress faster than the rest of the industry.”

The report covered some 161,859 people in tech roles in the UK, where 45% of signatories voluntarily submitted their ethnicity data. Next year this will become compulsory – and it will be interesting to see the companies that submit their data under duress when they didn’t before.

Of those that shared their D&I priorities in 2020, 81% said gender diversity was a high priority, while 58% said ethnic diversity was their premier objective.

Diversity in tech: the report’s results

The report reveals that addressing diversity and inclusion issues in tech can lead to improvements, where these signatory companies, by engaging with their data, became more diverse than other organisations.

In this regard, women held 25% of technical roles across Tech Talent Charter signatories compared with the UK average of 19%. The non-profit sector was found to have the most diverse tech roles, where 40% were held by women and 45% by BAME employees.

TTC signatories are also looking to upskill and retain their tech staff following the pandemic, with 36% now offering retraining and returners programmes. The number of associated organisations offering this has nearly doubled compared to last year.

Using diversity to plug the tech skills shortage

Retraining programmes could create more diverse tech roles by encouraging a wider body of candidates, including women, working mothers, and BAME talent, all of who are generally underrepresented in tech, to begin or resume their careers in the industry.

Making the traditionally white and male tech sector a more diverse and inclusive place is not only the right thing to do, but it will be a vital way to bridge the skills gap the industry is experiencing globally, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Their research found that the labour skills shortage in the tech, media, and telecommunications sector will account for a shortfall of 4.3 million workers and around $450 billion “in unrealised output” by 2030.

To address this impending skills crisis, the logic is for firms to widen their recruitment search, which means considering talent from other backgrounds over what is already present in the sector.

BAME workers least likely to report D&I issues

The report then looked at company attitudes to D&I initiatives and found that while over 80% of respondents “agreed or strongly agreed that initiatives in the workplace to improve gender and ethnic diversity in tech roles are necessary”, 22% had concerns about raising a D&I-related issue. This rose to 32% for BAME groups.

These statistics raise concerns about the extent that people of colour feel able to report incidences of discrimination in the workplace. A 2018 study found that white workers were more likely to call out a racist incident (37%) than Black (27%) and Asian workers (25%). Black workers were the least likely to escalate the issue, where 34% “took no action” compared to white workers (28%).

Reflecting on the results of the report, CEO and Co-Founder of the Tech Talent Charter Debbie Forster, said; “While many companies have the right intentions on diversity, reluctance to speak up through anxiety or fear of saying the wrong thing can slow down progress, which not only prevents equity and inclusion but also slows down efforts to close the UK’s digital skills gap.

“This year, we are calling on our signatories and the wider industry to create safe environments to start those tough conversations needed to remove bias from systems and processes and help drive meaningful change. Only through collaboration can progress be made.”

Like the current stagnation on gender pay gap reporting in the UK, if firms fail to engage with their data on ethnic and gender representation in tech roles, they will continue to stall D&I in an industry that desperately needs it. This means that employers will continue to hire from the same talent pool, rendering the industry increasingly vulnerable to the impending skills shortage that’s on its way.

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