Diversity and inclusion progress in UK data industry stalls

Sad diverse woman sitting at desk, head in hands, diversity  and inclusionThe data industry has long been celebrated as ethnically diverse.

However, dig a little deeper and shocking statistics around pay and opportunity emerge not only for Black professionals but for gender diversity and people with disabilities too.

New research carried out by Rockborne on behalf of parent company Harnham, the global leaders in Data and Analytics recruitment, has shown that there has been little change in the diverse make-up of the industry over the last 12 months. This is despite employers hailing it as a priority.

Harnham’s annual State of Diversity in Data and Analytics report involving 9,500 respondents takes a deep dive into the state of play of Diversity and Inclusion across the data industry, focusing on gender, ethnicity, race, disability, and age. It reveals a mixed landscape, with pockets of both progress and stark stagnation.

Whilst acknowledging that there are initiatives being taken by employers to actively improve diversity, the findings highlight the need for the industry to continue to put its money where its mouth is if it hopes to remain trailblazing and innovative.

Ethnic diversity lags behind

When it comes to ethnic diversity, Rockborne research found that White/Caucasian professionals made up a smaller percentage of the Data & Analytics industry (75%) than they do of the UK population as a whole (86% nationally). This makes the data industry across the board one of the more ethnically diverse industries in the UK.

That said, just because there are fewer white professionals than the national average, not all other ethnicities are experiencing increased representation. Indeed, while Asian/Asian British professionals account for 15% of the industry (vs 7.8% in the 2011 census), Black/African/Caribbean/Black British professionals only account for just 3% of the (vs 3.5% in the 2011 census).

On top of this, the report reveals that the ethnicity pay gap is up over 50% from where it sat 12 months ago, with the highest-paid individual group in the Data & Analytics industry being White/Caucasian men. They earn an average of £69,260 per year, whilst the lowest paid group are women from a Black/African/Caribbean/Black British background, with average earnings of £53,850 - a pay gap of 22%.

Diversity decreases as seniority rises

Equality doesn’t improve higher up the chain either, with a significant trend of diversity decreasing as seniority rises, coming to light. For example, representation of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic professionals falls sharply from 42% at Entry-level to just 16% at Head of/Director level.

Sadiqah Musa, founder of Black In Data works closely with Harnham and provides her thoughts on the findings:

“People of Afro/Caribbean heritage make up only 3% of data professionals and have the widest pay gap. If you are, as I am, a Black female working in data, you are likely to be paid 22% less than your white male counterpart. 

Black people are often given the double burden of experiencing racism and discrimination, and then being expected to fix it.

This year, the theme of Black History Month is ‘Time for Change: Action Not Words’. I challenge all of us in the data industry to be courageous, educate ourselves, and take action for greater equality.”

Gender in early careers talent edges closer to parity

In terms of gender, 28% of Data & Analytics professionals across the entire industry are women – the same as Harnham’s 2021 report. However, the gender balance in professionals who are in their first role in data, has moved significantly closer to parity, increasing to 40%, up from 28% across the entire industry.

Gender pay gap decreases overall but a gap between professionals with parental responsibilities opens up.

There are some more promising signs, though., The gender pay gap across professionals in Data & Analytics now stands at 6% - a figure which is not only an improvement on last year, but also falls below the UK average of 9.8%.

But there are certain areas calling out for improvement, such as for parents. Male professionals with parental responsibilities earn £76,700 on average, whereas female professionals in the same position take home significantly less – an average of £65,580 (a pay gap of 14%).

These figures are tempered by the fact that all specialisms surveyed reported a gap smaller than the UK average, ranging from 9% in Data & Technology to -1% (as in the gap favoured women) in Marketing & Insight.

Harnham’s CEO David Farmer believes that “while we should be positive about the progress the industry has made, this is clearly not the time to hang up our boots.”

Farmer continues: “It is vital to us at Harnham that we continue to monitor the industry’s progress and do not shy away from revealing where gaps exist. There is no benefit in burying our heads in the sand, we must instead continue striving forwards. 

“We know that change takes time, but I firmly believe that if businesses and, crucially, educational institutions keep pushing for better diversity, we will see significant change over the next five to ten years.”

These statistics drive home the reality that the data industry still has some way to go if it wants to continue to hail itself as innovative and disruptive. There are employers actively trying to improve diversity, and the industry should use data like this as grounds for following their lead.

Tackling the data industry as a 19-year old apprentice

Kardelen Keskin

I was always undecided about my career and at one point, after receiving my GCSE results, I contemplated becoming a dentist.

While my test results may have proven that I was a suitable fit for this industry in secondary school, I wasn’t certain that this route was for me, so after my A-levels I decided to try a non-traditional career path. At 19, I enrolled with Creative Pioneers, a national apprenticeship programme in advertising, creative and digital, for a data analyst role at Mindshare. Though it was a shock to many family and friends for reasons you may imagine, I was confident that hands-on learning was the path for me.

I’ll be honest, my apprenticeship knowledge was vague. I anticipated joining at intern level, working on meaningless, administrative tasks, but I was quickly proven wrong. I was given autonomy soon after joining Mindshare with the opportunity to develop my own projects and even speak with clients. When I think back to these first few weeks, I often ponder what it would have been like to go to university. Would I have been creating and implementing projects for some of the world’s top digital brands? Likely not. I also know for a fact that I would not be working as a full-time employee, because I would still be in my second year of higher education. It is moments like these that make me appreciate the opportunity I have been given by Creative Pioneers, and needless to say I’m an advocate for apprenticeships.

Whilst the fast-paced, ever-changing media environment posed a challenge at first, I was keen to progress my career quickly from the moment I joined Mindshare. Even though I chose an apprenticeship in data, I don’t feel stuck in this industry because of the diverse set of skills I have acquired in my programme. I feel empowered to continue progressing in my current role, though I know my avenues are not restricted should I decide to change industries in the future.

Working in the data team at Mindshare has been incredibly inspiring, and a day like International Women’s Day makes that apparent. It may come as a surprise to some that the majority of my team are female. Together we’re constantly thinking of ways to innovate through technology, paving the way for future generations while also hoping to reduce the stigma for females working in data and technology.

Speaking of stigmas, there are certainly some that exist about apprenticeships, but I would not change my journey for anything. I feel more equipped to handle complex issues in and outside of work, and I feel empowered to take full control over my career regardless of the direction it may take. It’s rewarding to have a career route established at just 20 years old, because when I think of friends who chose to go to university, I know they are still a few years away from this stage of life.

For those curious about upskilling in their current role or exploring a route other than university, apprenticeships are a really strong option, such as the one I’ve done with Creative Pioneers. I can see from my experience as an apprentice that we’re helping to diversify the workforce, which is really rewarding in itself!

About the author

After completing her A-levels Kardelen Keskin decided she didn’t want to follow the traditional university route and was more interested in hands-on experience in a fast-paced environment. She parked her plan of becoming a dentist and applied for a data analyst role at Mindshare which she will complete in March 2020. The fast-paced and constantly evolving media environment was a challenge but has provided essential experience and allowed Kardelen to advance quickly.


Positive female role-models in the data industry


By Sarah Robertson, Experian

I remember as a child how much I enjoyed maths. 

I was lucky enough to go to a primary school that positively encouraged me to progress in a subject that has traditionally led to male-dominated job roles. That early support, along with strong female role models in my family, helped me grow in a subject I love and shaped my career in data.

However, many statistics are telling us that there are thousands of skilled, innovative and talented women out there who aren’t even considering a career in STEM, let alone data.  It’s clear to me that more support is needed to empower and encourage a new generation into the data science industry.  I’m a firm believer that we need to start working with girls at an early age to help breakdown the stereotypes and obsolete views that certain professions are gender-specific.

Take my son’s infant school, for example.  When he left in July, the school played a video showing what each child wanted to be when they were older.  Each answer lived up to a gender stereotype. It made me question how and why this happens, even in the most progressive households.  As a collective group, we need to broaden our children’s minds on the possible.  STEM careers of the future will only be more exciting, more varied, more significant to our digital, technological and data-driven society.

It is also important that we start encouraging girls to take risks, the same way we do with boys.  Girls should be brave, not perfect.  STEM subjects tend to have a right or wrong answer in early education, and if girls are not brave enough to be wrong, then they won’t challenge themselves with STEM subjects.  We must teach our daughters that it is OK to take risks.  It is OK to be wrong.  It is OK to learn something new.

Part of encouraging the next generation also means recognising and celebrating the achievements of the female role models working in data today.  Role models like Maggie Aderin-Pocock, who can inspire others and show them that a career in STEM is possible.  Having the chance to hear from these inspirational figures, what they love about their jobs, how they got there, and what they’ve overcome to achieve success is crucial.  Their stories can inspire the women of tomorrow to follow in their footsteps and to blaze their own trails.

However, we can’t rely solely on these well-known role models to single-handedly change an entire generation’s thinking.  We all have a responsibility to be role models in what we do.  More and more businesses are creating closer links with schools, colleges and universities giving the perfect opportunity to support younger people considering certain careers.  This is hugely important for girls wanting to get into STEM.

We’re in a stronger position than we’ve ever been before in the data industry, supported by some fantastic initiatives – like M&S, who recently announced their intention to turn more than 1000 of their staff into data scientists.  This is a huge step in the right direction, potentially opening doors for more women to find their passion in data science.

Despite still having a long way to go, we have made significant progress redressing gender imbalance in STEM, supported by a strong and passionate community.  I’m excited to continue doing my bit to encourage a new generation of girls to become part of the data revolution.

Sarah Robertson featuredAbout the author

In the early stages of Sarah’s career there was a clear lack of female role models working in the data industry, so she made it her mission to support the women that worked in her teams, as well as her peers and friends within the industry.

After Sarah graduated, she was unsure of what career to pursue but felt at the time IT was her preferred choice. This led to a temporary contract with IBM working in IT, but she quickly learnt that it wasn’t for her and started exploring jobs in statistics. She landed a role with a marketing agency in their analytics division and absolutely loved it! It was then that analysing data to understand consumer behaviour became a passion of hers. That was over 20 years ago and she’s never looked back.

Sarah is keen to address the imbalance of men and women across our industry, she is heavily involved in the event Women in Data UK and contributing to her current business on recruiting more females into data roles.