diversity, boys club

Article provided by Rachel McElroy, chief marketing officer cloud and technology-focused managed service provider Solutionize Global

With emerging trends firmly focused on Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and the increased use of tech in vital sectors such as healthcare, building a diverse workforce in this evolving landscape is now more pertinent than ever before.

It’s imperative for enterprises to build solutions encompassing many voices and reflect the input of the talented individuals throughout their teams – to prevent inherent bias in the innovation they bring to the marketplace.

Digital developments introduced by organisations must be truly representative of their end users’ wants, needs and interests. But what does that mean when tackling the immense diversity challenges within the sector that exists and how that will impact on what lies ahead?

To understand the best way to approach this is by reviewing the cool, hard facts on diversity. Yes, times are changing in the technology world – and more importance is being placed on building a diverse and inclusive workforce – but top, diverse talent is still battling to break through into an industry that has innovation and disruption at its heart.

Delving into the data

For example, in 2014 key Silicon Valley companies – including Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook published their diversity numbers for the first time – revealing how their teams were predominantly white or Asian men.

Five years on, Apple’s diversity figures still make for grim reading. The phone giant employs the same amount of black technical workers (six per cent), despite 13 per cent of the US population being black.

Meanwhile, delving into Facebook’s released data, 23 per cent of its technical workforce is female – which has seen an increase of 15% since 2014 – and Google reported similar numbers too. And although Amazon don’t publish their numbers concerning the split between technical, distribution and other employees, the e-commerce firm reports that 42 per cent of its workers are women.

When some of the most well-known US tech giants are struggling to make a substantial difference to the overall demographic of their staff list, how can other enterprises realistically make a difference? And how does that translate when thinking about the UK tech landscape?

Analysing the nation’s digital workforces

According to the most recent Tech Nation Report on diversity and inclusion – which analysed 12.5 million UK businesses registered with Companies House – only 19% of UK tech workers are female and 15 per cent are from BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) backgrounds.

In addition, when it comes to leadership roles, 22 per cent of tech directors are women. Comparatively, in the wider business community, such figures are only a little different – with a 71/29 per centsplit between the male and female sexes.

Although things are improving, albeit at a slow pace, it can still make for depressing reading – especially when considering how the last two decades of data show that the proportion of women in tech boardrooms has simply plateaued. And this all comes off the back of many high-profile campaigns and a renewed awareness of how a diverse directorship or senior leadership team can directly, and positively, impact a company’s bottom line.

As the UK tech evolution grows three-times faster than the overall economy – contributing an impressive £200 billion a year – it shows how much it is revolutionising enterprises and providing the exciting, myriad of roles now available to the motivated and digital savvy staff member.

So, why is diversity still such a challenge?

Perhaps something can be said with regards to the lengthy, historical backdrop of poor representation that technology has played when being viewed as a viable career choice for women.

Additionally, education has an important role throughout, as it possesses the opportunity to empower the workforces of tomorrow and showcase the incredible force that digital disruption embodies. For example, ICT has typically been viewed as a sector working in silos and only suited to men with analytical minds. However, it should be highlighted as an exciting, collaborative and innovative career that can truly change the face of how companies now operate.

It’s time to challenge recent research that reveals how 48 per cent of women feel that a lack of mentors was a blocker towards a technology career. This needs to be tackled as an industry and by those working in it.

These are the statistics that really matter to analyse and truly affect change. The Bank of England’s recent analysis shockingly revealed that ethnic minorities in the UK earn around 10 per cent less than white workers.

Could 2020 be the year when enterprises truly focus on recruiting a diverse mix of top tech talent from a range of backgrounds and providing them with a workplace that is inclusive and rewarding to all? Let’s hope so.

It all comes back to one simple question – how can the right digital products and services be built to provide a viable solution for everyone if we all have the same voice?