Diversity must be the driving force behind our industry

Sheila Flavell of FDM Group explains why diversity needs to be much more than just a tick-box exercise

Credit: FDM Group

The UK’s technology industry is a source of inspiration, employment, and opportunity for millions of people across the country. 

Every single day, our seasoned industry leaders and fresh-faced entrepreneurs are pushing the boundaries of artificial intelligence, big data, IoT, and a range of other technologies to make Britain a leader on the world stage.

As an industry, we have so much to celebrate, but as we move forward it’s time to start a serious conversation about our future. That means facing up to some uncomfortable realities, including that we could, and should, be doing so much more to encourage diversity. 

Let me be clear: this debate shouldn’t be about quick-fix tick-box exercises. It should, however, be about building a technology legacy that brings together the talents of many different people, from all walks of life. 

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For example, is it acceptable that a recent study from the British Computer Society (BCS) found that only 17% of technical roles in the UK are filled by women? Are we, as an industry, happy that many women returners who have taken career breaks to care for family members are concerned that a gap in their CV will count against them?  Can we ignore the fact that so many people from BAME and disadvantaged backgrounds are poorly represented in UK tech? 

The time has come for serious action to change the way our industry operates and engages with the next generation.

To those who suggest overcoming these challenges will take many years and endless resources, I profoundly disagree. We are in the technology industry – an industry where the word ‘impossible’ should not exist.

If we can develop cutting-edge algorithms, autonomous vehicles, and intelligent robots then solving our diversity issues should be a walk in the park.

Things are beginning to move in the right direction, with digital minister Matt Hancock launching the Tech Talent Charter and organisations like techUK providing dedicated resources to support women in technology. 

We also need to see more support for girls to take up STEM subjects. This means offering more work-experience opportunities and ensuring entrepreneurs spend time in schools, promoting the career routes and driving support for the industry. It also means companies refreshing their approach to recruitment and recognising that to stay ahead of the global competition means building a workforce truly reflective of the world it serves.

Building a more diverse workforce shouldn’t be a tick-box exercise, it should be the driving force behind the future of our industry. 

So, what are we waiting for?

Sam Trendall

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