Tackling the Root Issue with Diversity and Inclusion in Tech

June 25, 2018

It’s no secret that when it comes to diversity and inclusion in technology, the scales are heavily sided against women and those from a BME background. The 2018 Harvey Nash Technology Survey, of more than 3,000 tech professionals, shows that just one in seven are female.  A bigger concern is that this figure has remained the same for years, with LinkedIn research suggesting the number of female software engineers has only risen 3% in 15 years. Worrying figures indeed.

In spite of these stats the sentiment amongst businesses and technologists is that we need to strike a greater balance. It’s not entirely altruistic. More diverse businesses have been proven to yield higher profits and greater productivity. Add to that the major tech talent shortage and the motives for attracting more women become apparent.  

Huge efforts are being made across technology to enhance diversity. Initiatives, such as the Tech Talent Charter, School of Code and Harvey Nash’s Inclusion 360 initiative, are helping promote technology careers to a wider market and enabling organisations to better address the diversity challenges they face.

Software engineering apprentice, Michelle Sam, shares why she left a career in genetics for one in technology.

So, What’s the Problem?

The problem is not that there aren’t enough women available. We can’t blame a lack of women studying STEM subjects. They’re on the rise. And, according to a recent Forbes article, only 27% of women put family as the primary reason for leaving tech, which doesn’t account for the massive shortfall that exists.

So, what is the problem? Without wishing to over-simplify such a complicated issue, when it comes to diversity, the greatest challenge facing tech is unconscious bias.

A 2016 report from venture capital firm, First Round, revealed almost a third (29%) of women pinpoint “unconscious bias in hiring or promotions” as the driver for women and minorities being underrepresented in technology.

Understandably, only 12% of men agreed. After all, who wants to admit to themselves that they’ve discriminated against a candidate or employee based on something a superficial as age, gender, religion or race? But the research suggests otherwise.

Take for example a 2014 study by Kieran Snyder, which involved analysing the performance reviews of men and women across 28 technology companies. The research revealed a major difference in the way critical feedback is provided to each gender. The primary feedback for men focused on the skills they needed to develop. Although women received this type of feedback too, it was frequently (76% of the time) accompanied by ‘negative personality criticisms.’ Comments included, ‘watch your tone! Step back! Stop being so judgmental!’

The ‘glass ceiling’ is very real and has been cited as one of the main reasons women leave tech at a 45% higher rate than men.

And there’s no denying businesses are trying. Google ‘how to improve diversity and inclusion in tech’ and take your pick of the 91 million or so articles with tips and advice on the matter.  It begs the question, “with so much sage advice available, why has so little changed?”

How Future Skills Can Help

Earlier this year we launched the Future Skills Programme, an initiative that aims to expand the talent pool,  by bringing-in high potential talent from outside the sector, and building their skills through a unique training and development programme. The programme promises to get brand new engineering talent working with businesses productively and quickly.

The programme helps promote diversity and inclusion in our clients’ organisations by leveraging Harvey Nash’s unrivalled reputation in tech recruitment and removing the unconscious bias mentioned earlier. We do this in a number of ways:

  • Focusing on hiring talent from outside the technology sector, Harvey Nash Recruitment Solutions is able to attract a more diverse pool of candidates. As mentioned, the percentage of women in the tech talent pool is extremely limited (about 17% in the UK), meaning the businesses targeting this market will immediately encounter diversity challenges.
  • Working to attract talent from all gender and ethnic minorities across the UK, immediately addressing the imbalance. Considering women today make up just under half (46.5%) of the UK labour market and ethnic minorities make up a growing portion of the work force, this is imperative.
  • Helping our clients challenge their own stereotypes about who and what makes a successful hire. We identify high potential talent by testing their ability and aptitude. Through our unique training programme, we equip them to become software engineers, that our clients would never otherwise have had access to.

Through the Apprenticeship Levy, Harvey Nash is able to offer the training for free, or for very little cost, to our clients and the individuals. We believe it is the most exciting, cost effective and highly innovative means of generating diverse talentavailable to businesses today.

To find out how Future Skills can help improve your company’s diversity and inclusion contact victoria.payne@harveynash.com

Access smarter and faster talent recruitment