Digital: We have a problem!

Diversity in the digital sector – in the UK and elsewhere – is appallingly poor.  Going by data compiled by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, nearly 89% of those working in the digital sector are white. Only 16% of UK’s IT professionals are female and only 8.5% of senior leaders in the sector are of BAME background.  When it comes to disability, only 9% of tech specialists in the UK have a disability.  This is a serious problem considering that the sector spans such a vast array of products and services – all of which are designed and developed by only a tiny cross-section of our natural diversity.

In 2017 the Tech Talent Charter (TTC) was founded to address this lack of Diversity and has been supported by the UK Digital Strategy ever since.  Its aim is to bring already existing solutions to the sector by facilitating collaboration, sharing expertise and insights and collating and sharing benchmarking data.  Signing the pledge is a commitment to plan to improve diversity and inclusion at work, to collaborate and share experiences and to submit a diversity questionnaire each year.  Any organisation that works with technology – not just tech companies – can become a signatory.   Voice At The Table joined TTC last year and are proud to contribute to this sector with our knowledge and expertise.

What else can be done to address diversity in the sector?

Our digital and tech clients have asked us to help them to become more inclusive.  After all, an inclusive workplace is the foundation for nurturing broader diversity of thought.

We have responded by sharing our set of 8 Inclusive Behaviours.

In one instance, we helped a telecoms business by designing and developing an e-learning tool for their onboarding process.  In this digital solution, all new joiners are introduced to the ‘rules of engagement’ in an inclusive work environment.  The modules explain what it means to be inclusive and why it matters, how these behaviours manifest themselves in the workplace and how to improve our own inclusive behaviours.

In other instances, we have created Inclusive Behaviours Frameworks for organisations, designed to expand an organisation’s values and behaviours and to be used as a tool to develop stronger inclusion – behaviour by behaviour – within the organisation.

This phased approach to inclusion makes it easier to embrace the challenges that exist in the sector and leads to a more natural evolution of Diversity in the sector.  Layered with several other Diversity initiatives – such as gender-neutral job descriptions, naming but one example – companies become better equipped in attracting greater diversity to the sector as well as retaining it.

What gets measured gets done?

One unremitting challenge we see is gathering the requisite data on diversity in order to be able to better understand existing obstacles to D&I.  Last month, the Big Fish Academy – our D&I training arm – hosted an ‘expert interview’ on this topic with a D&I lead from the BBC alongside one of their Deputy Directors from the Design and Engineering unit – part of the BBC’s tech department.  It wasn’t perhaps surprising to hear that the BBC is very good at gathering all the requisite data – but not only that.  What has made the biggest difference to its diversity efforts is what they do with the data. Sharing the collected information openly and explaining what is intended to be done with it is as important as actually doing something with it.  This kind of open acknowledgement encourages a higher rate of disclosure – a sign of inclusion – and allows organisations to pinpoint initiatives to address the specific challenges they are experiencing.

Data is something that tech-savvy organisations do well, and if they turn their natural strengths to the challenges around Diversity and Inclusion, I believe that they can achieve greater success than they have shown to-date.

Many of you undoubtedly believe that your organisations already collect a lot of data, but as we heard in another Roundtable I facilitated just last week for the Legal sector, there’s data and then there’s data.  It’s not enough to collect ‘milestone’ data.  We need to trace the data through the employee life cycle – from recruitment to retirement/exit.  We need to understand the experience of each employee and how that differs for different groups or characteristics.  The more granular the information we collect, the more precise the picture we obtain.  This kind of information can unearth ingrained biases in our processes that can be addressed quickly and systematically.

So yes, our digital sector has a diversity problem – but it also has the solutions.  Now we just need to get better at putting the two together and we will be on our way to a better future for all of us.

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