The tech sector in the UK continues to face the persistent challenge of a lack of diversity, and progress in addressing this issue has been slow. One of the main factors contributing to this problem is the limited access to digital technologies for many individuals across the country, preventing them from pursuing careers in tech.
In order to make meaningful progress in 2023, the focus should not only be on promoting diversity in the technology sector but also on fostering an inclusive culture that sustains the achievements made so far. Unfortunately, some businesses still view increasing diversity within their organizations as a mere compliance exercise and have not implemented dedicated initiatives to address this issue. However, data from the Tech Talent Charter (TTC), whose signatories are more committed to improving diversity, shows that these companies have a more diverse workforce. In fact, both women and ethnic minorities are better represented in TTC signatory tech teams compared to the wider UK tech workforce, and these figures have been increasing over the past year.
Efforts to enhance diversity in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) fields have also been slow-moving. Members of Parliament have called on the government to take more action in investigating and eliminating the barriers that hinder diversity in the tech sector. The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee (STC) initiated an inquiry in 2021 to understand why diversity in STEM was lacking and subsequently published a report in 2023 suggesting that the Department for Science, Innovation, and Technology should prioritize increasing diversity in STEM.
Various factors contribute to the underrepresentation of women in tech careers, including the lack of accessible role models and misconceptions about the nature of tech roles. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has further compounded the challenges faced by women in the workplace. The shift to remote working has led to divergent opinions on whether this arrangement should continue. For women, the flexibility offered by remote work has been crucial in managing their work-life balance, and mandating a return to the office may discourage them from working for certain companies. The Tech Talent Charter has observed that caring responsibilities have forced some women to leave the tech sector entirely.
Efforts to increase diversity in the technology sector will be futile without the presence of an inclusive culture that supports diverse talent. Disconcertingly, data from the Office of National Statistics reveals a decline in the number of women in the UK’s technology sector between the first and second quarters of 2023. Moreover, Wiley Edge found that 64% of UK firms have witnessed the departure of tech talent from diverse backgrounds in the past year.
Each year, Computer Weekly recognizes influential women in UK technology and conducts interviews with the recipient of the title Most Influential Woman in UK Tech. In 2023, Suki Fuller, an intelligence analyst and founder of Miribure, received this prestigious accolade. The list of Rising Stars in the women in tech sector and the Hall of Fame, which pays tribute to women who have made a lasting impact in the tech industry, were also announced. The longlist of nominees for these distinctions exceeded 600 in 2023.
To discuss ways of enhancing diversity in the tech sector, Computer Weekly collaborates with Nash Squared annually and publishes a whitepaper detailing the outcomes of the previous year’s event. The theme for 2022 was “Inclusion = everyone”.
Participating in women in tech communities provides substantial support to women in the industry. At the Splunk .conf23 event, experts share valuable insights they have gained throughout their careers. This includes advice such as avoiding the burden of planning social events, which often falls on women and is considered unpaid emotional work. The Everywoman in Tech 2023 Forum also featured wisdom from women in C-Suite technology positions, advising others to approach their careers authentically.
The COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately impacted women in the workplace as gender expectations placed an additional burden on them to care for others while working from home. In 2023, some of these effects began to alleviate, with Integro Accounting noting a slight reduction in pay gaps, including those between genders and between the North and the South.
The pay gap in the technology sector is partly caused by the underrepresentation of women in senior positions that tend to offer higher salaries. Skillsoft reports that some women in the tech sector are seeking new roles to find better career opportunities and a higher likelihood of progressing to higher positions.
While the lack of diversity in the tech sector primarily involves the underrepresentation of women and ethnic minorities, other groups, such as those from less affluent socio-economic backgrounds, are also marginalized. These individuals are excluded not only from tech roles and skills but also from participating fully in society due to limited access to technology. A House of Lords report attributes this issue to insufficient and inadequate government intervention, urging the development of a more effective strategy to address digital exclusion throughout the UK.