The World Economic Forum has argued that in a globally competitive market “the integration of women into the talent pool becomes a must”. When people in our industry speak out about supporting diversity, equality and inclusiveness in their workplaces, this will become much harder to ignore, argues Elizabeth Vega.
We live in a world that is driven by progress. From self-driving trucks to quantum computing to Hyperloop’s near sonic speed terrestrial transport, we’re surrounded by examples of dizzying tech innovation. But these dazzling breakthroughs obscure a shameful tech industry secret where progress is being rolled back and things are getting noticeably worse.
I am, of course, referring to the tech industry’s gender diversity problem.
Only 17 per cent of employees in the UK tech sector are women and with latest figures showing the total number of girls taking either ICT or computer science at GCSE has fallen by 12 per cent, it’s going to take an almighty effort to see any significant improvement.
This month, researchers at Davos argued that the gender equality and pay gaps between men and women are likely to widen unless action is taken to tackle these issues in key sectors, like technology.
So what are we doing about it? Despite fantastic initiatives from the likes of techUK , the Digital Leaders network, Northern Power Women and others, the message is not getting through to those that can help effect real change.
Research from McKinsey shows that companies perform best when women are strongly represented. However, deep-rooted complacency and short-sighted self-interest is holding progress back. According to the EU Gender Equality Index, Britain has made no progress in tackling gender inequality over the past decade!
Aside from the fact that this damages the productivity, economic growth and social development of the UK, it prevents far too many people from fulfilling their potential and far too many UK businesses from having access to the best possible talent pool. It’s simply not sustainable to continue like this when we aspire to maintain a high quality of life in a post-Brexit world of open competition within a dynamic global marketplace. To illustrate the point, the UK led the world as a Digital Top 5 nation for many years and yet it is now estimated that the lack of digital skills is costing the UK economy £63billion a year. The UK helped create the opportunities delivered by a leading digital economy and it is now at risk of being left behind.
At Informed Solutions we employ double the industry average number of women – but we want to do more. Because it benefits our own company of course, but also because the UK marketplace in which we do business relies on access to the best talent; an educated, motivated, innovative and diverse workforce. We cannot help but be propelled or held back by the productivity and performance of the UK economy. So, we have explored ways to do more and recently asked all of our staff their views on workplace diversity.
The results are striking. There is an overwhelming consensus that diversity makes for a better work environment. Staff are also clear that as problem solvers they want to work in mixed groups because a diverse range of opinions and experiences helps them shape better solutions. Our staff also felt that diversity created a more tolerant, empathetic and inclusive workplace because ‘we are all a little weird or different’ in some way and want to feel accepted and valued.
This feedback was so loud and clear, that we decided to use it as part of a campaign, which we’re encouraging other businesses to contribute to. The #DiversityDelivers hashtag provides an opportunity for everyone, who wants to add their voice to the discussion on this critical issue for our industry, to speak up.
We hope other companies and people who share our values and ambitions will also share their thoughts on what closing the gender gap means to them. In this way, the rallying cry for an open and inclusive tech sector authentically represents all of us.