Written by:
Tim Farmer

Tech’s diversity problem – how worried should we be?

Here’s a question for you. Why is it that companies like Google or Facebook can revolutionise modern life, but still struggle to recruit more women/black/gay/older people?

You can pretty much name any minority group out there and I can almost guarantee they will be underrepresented in tech.

If you need proof, just look at the figures. At Google, 31% of the workforce is female. While at Facebook, the percentage of black employees is a worrying 3%. Considering this is the result of many years of work by these companies to improve their diversity problem, it’s a sorry state of affairs.

Not only does it paint a pretty bleak picture, it leaves the rest of us wondering what the hell they’ve been doing all this time?

I’m in the recruitment game so I do get it. Finding and hiring the right people is tough, but while other sectors have made significant steps forward in this area, tech is seriously lagging behind.

It’s not just the tech giants that are struggling, the sector as a whole has a bad rep when it comes to diversity. So, it’s good to hear that some initiatives are doing what they can to buck that trend.

Earlier this month, the Tech Talent Charter released a report focusing on the gender gap. Basically, it’s a series of tips for businesses looking to close the gender divide, but when I looked a little deeper I realised it’s much more than that.

This initiative has achieved what many would describe as a small miracle: it has encouraged business competitors to come together, share data and [gasps] collaborate. Will wonders never cease?!

Ask anyone in the UK’s tech sector (and believe me, I have) and they’ll tell you there’s an ongoing issue with gender, race and class across the sector.

However, initiatives such as the Tech Talent Charter can only go so far. When you’re dealing with such a wide-ranging problem, solutions are hard to come by. But do nothing and we all know the consequences will be severe.

The main issue I have is that tech plays such a big role in all our lives – from banking, healthcare, education and more, it impacts our lives every day. If certain groups can’t get involved and have their voices heard within the tech sector, we’ve got a real problem.

But change is coming. All UK businesses employing 250 people or more now have to publish gender pay differences. River Island, like many other companies, breaks down information based on gender distribution across pay grades, bonuses paid, and the difference between male and female pay regardless of the nature of the work.

I fear the diversity problem is something that will plague the tech sector for some time to come, but the more companies are transparent and committed to diversity the more progress we will see.


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