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TTC report: Why diversity initiatives matter

The Tech Talent Charter (TTC) – a government-backed initiative aiming to address the tech industry’s diversity gap – has released its annual benchmarking report looking at the state of diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the UK’s technology sector.

As stated in the report, the companies participating in the TTC are ones “leaning into D&I”. Almost 650 companies provided D&I data to TTC, covering roughly 210,245 tech employees, accounting for around 16% of the UK’s tech workforce.

But this small snippet of the UK’s tech workforce has higher than average participation of diverse groups, pointing to the reality that businesses need to make a concerted effort to adopt D&I practices to push D&I forward in organisations.

“Working with the Tech Talent Charter is hugely important as it means that businesses have committed, and are taking action, to make real changes that allow them to attract those from different backgrounds into business and industry, and then keeps them,” said Beverley Hamblet-Bowes, director of human resources (HR) at TTC participant Nominet.

Where D&I makes a difference

Both women and ethnic minorities represent a higher proportion of the tech workforce in TTC signatories than in the wider UK tech workforce, with both figures growing in TTC companies over the past year.

Women make up 28% of tech workers in TTC organisations, which is 6% more than in the UK’s wider tech workforce.

When it came to the overall representation of ethnic minority groups, around a quarter of those working in tech in TTC’s signatory companies are from an ethnic minority background, higher than the 18% in the UK’s overall tech workforce and 11% of the overall working population in the UK.

Breaking these figures down further, within TTC firms, 16% of tech workers were Asian or British Asian, versus 9% of the general UK tech workforce and 4% of the UK’s overall working population; and 4% of the TTC signatory base fell into the “other” category, only 1% less than the wider tech population, and the same as the UK’s wider working population.

People from a Black, African, Caribbean, or Black British background account for 16% of tech workers in TTC companies, more than the 9% in the general UK tech workforce and the 4% of the UK’s working population.

Different aspects of diversity require different interventions, and TTC is clear that lots of initiatives need to be running at once to see an improvement.

When TTC participants ranked their top 10 practices for increasing the gender diversity in their organisations, most were focused around hiring, including tools to remove biased language from job adverts, recruitment targets, recruitment specifically aimed at women, and relationships with third parties.

Internally, for retention purposes, they offered employee network groups, flexible working opportunities, and support or coaching, especially for those with families.

The top 10 interventions looked slightly different when it came to increasing the number of tech employees from ethnic minority groups – observing cultural markers and events, as well as the use of D&I educational resources and training, ranked much higher in importance for improving ethnic diversity than for gender diversity.

But at a senior level, the figures tell a different story – even in companies that have signed the Tech Talent Charter, the percentage of women and ethnic minorities in senior leadership positions is low.

Where there’s still work

While ethnic minorities make up a quarter of tech workers in TTC signatories, they only account for 13% of people in senior tech roles, and women only make up 22% of tech leaders in TTC companies despite accounting for 28% of their wider tech workforce.

Lexie Papaspyrou, COO, Tech Talent Charter, implies companies need to focus on retention and progression to solve this issue.

She said: “We have definitely seen concerted efforts from across the sector to open up recruitment to broader talent pools and focus on getting more diverse range of candidates through the door.

“However, once you look just at more senior tech roles, this figure plummets by almost half to just 13%, showing that ethnic minority talent are still missing out when it comes to promotion and progression opportunities. Essentially, they are getting in, but not getting on.”

For women, it isn’t just senior leadership – women appear to avoid some roles that are deemed to be more difficult, such as software engineering and IT operations.

Talking specifically about gender, TTC’s report highlighted that many companies are still putting their focus on hiring more women rather than trying to fix some of the issues that prevent women from entering and staying in tech roles in the first place. TTC called on companies to increase the number of women entering the tech pipeline, ensuring they have the entry-level skills for a tech job, and making sure the culture in firms is the right fit for them to want to stay.

One of the main reasons cited for women dropping out of the tech talent pipeline before a senior level is due to a lack of support when having children or care responsibilities, often leading to them leaving an organisation and being unable to return.

As well as helping people with families, many TTC signatories are providing menopause support, as well as support for other reproductive health issues, in an effort to retain women at different levels of an organisation.

For ethnic minority groups, TTC’s report claimed it appears there is a lack of “equitable career progression”, and recommended inclusion practices that “permeate the entire culture of an organisation”.

To create the career progression needed for diverse senior leadership, people who join their organisation need to know how to get to the top when they join, which means laying out the path so both they and managers know where they are aiming and how to get there, as well as ensuring the right support and feedback practices are in place, said TTC’s report.

A focus on skills is also important – the government has recently put an emphasis on lifelong learning being a way to solve the UK’s digital skills gap, which can also ensure that both new joiners and existing employees have the skills they need to thrive in an organisation, no matter their level.

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