Almost 70% of IT staff say firms working on tech gender diversity

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More than half of IT workers in the UK and Ireland say their companies are trying to tackle gender diversity in IT departments, according to research by Computer Weekly.

The annual Computer Weekly/TechTarget IT salary survey asked IT workers which topics related to diversity their IT departments were working to address in 2020 and found 67% said their firms were working on gender diversity.

But only 29% said their company had a plan in place to help improve the balance of men and women in their tech teams.

Ruth Blanco, communications director for WISE, the campaign for greater gender balance in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), which has resources available to help companies address diversity better, said: “While it is reassuring that the majority of IT workers say gender diversity is something their workplace is addressing, it is telling that only 29% say there is a plan in place. We know that diversity and inclusion should have a plan, just like any other business project.”

Recent research by BCS found a lack of diversity in the UK’s tech sector, with women accounting for 17% of IT specialists in the region, about 8% of IT specialists are of Indian ethnicity, 2% from a black, African, Caribbean or black British background, and 2% from a Pakistani or Bangladeshi background.

Computer Weekly’s own research found women accounted for an average of 22% of IT staff.

Almost 60% of IT workers questioned in the Computer Weekly/TechTarget IT salary survey said ethnicity was a topic their IT teams were currently working to address, 34% said their IT department was currently addressing the topic of sexuality, 34% of tech departments were working on addressing disability-related diversity issues, and 48% were looking into age discrepancies.

But diversity isn’t something that happens by itself in businesses – experts have agreed in the past that if firms cannot find diverse talent, it is likely that they have hiring and culture issues, and others have claimed that a push for diversity should come from the top of an organisation.

When it comes to addressing the lack of women in tech, almost 40% of IT staff said there was no plan in place to address the gender balance in their IT teams.

Less than 30% of IT workers said men and women with similar qualifications received the same pay in their firm – there is a significant gender pay gap in the UK’s tech sector, with research finding that women made about 9% less than their male counterparts in 2016.  

Russ Shaw, founder of Global Tech Advocates and Tech London Advocates, encouraged the sector to “reset” its thinking and work towards making tech workplaces more diverse and inclusive to promote industry growth.

“These figures show that a lack of diversity stubbornly remains a serious problem for the UK tech sector,” he said. “While there is a growing awareness of the scale of this challenge and an increasing number of tech companies are taking action, this research shows that more needs to be done and that change needs to happen faster.

“In 2021, it is simply unacceptable that two-thirds of tech companies are not actively addressing the gender pay gap or equal gender representation. On the one hand, we have tech companies desperate for talent and on the other hand, growing unemployment as a result of the pandemic.”

Some have claimed that addressing diversity in organisations could help tackle skills shortages because it widens the pool in which businesses look for talent.

But Computer Weekly’s research has found there are differences in opinion when it comes to recruiting women into tech teams.

In the UK and Ireland in 2020, 37% if IT workers believed recruiting more women into their IT departments would reduce skills shortages, but the same percentage thought skills shortages would not be affected by recruiting more women.

Only about a quarter of IT workers said women in their company had similar opportunities to men, with 38% saying that wasn’t true at all, and 42% didn’t think men needed to be more involved in helping women integrate into IT departments, despite 40% saying this was important.

“Solving the lack of diversity and equality is too often left to be the responsibility of under-represented groups, and this is a big challenge that slows down progress across the board,” said Debbie Forster, CEO of industry collaborative Tech Talent Charter. “This data, showing that 42% didn’t think men needed to be more involved in helping women integrate into IT departments, shows how pervasive this kind of thinking is.

“Ultimately, diversity benefits everyone, so should be seen as everyone’s responsibility. With men usually in the majority and often in positions of power, it is easy to see how this point of view prevents progress being made. Only when people work together can real solutions be found.”

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