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The Problem of Being Behind with Diversity in the Tech Sector

Written by: Natalia Nicholson, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Diversity has become a hot topic, and everywhere online seems to be promoting ways to recruit and retain a diverse workforce. The tech sector may seem like the least likely place where ethnic diversity would be an issue. With thousands of individuals from the Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) community, graduating with tech-related degrees and tech companies seeking ways to be more innovative, why is the tech sector behind with ethnic diversity within the workforce?

The UK government also recognizes the necessity of increasing the talent pool to have more opportunities to gain new tech skills and innovate the way we use the skills available. Additionally, industry associations within the tech industry are conscious of the need to drive diversity and increase the representation of minority groups. Yet, not much has changed over the past 5 years.

The unfolding of the coronavirus pandemic has made the tech sector's applications more relevant and important in many more traditional business sectors. Technical skills are integral for growth and adaptation in a challenging new world. Without increasing proportional representation, the UK will lag with developments in areas such as data proficiency, AI and machine-learning skills, and digital marketing.[1]

Various Tech Sectors form a significant part of the UK economy and shape how we all live, including:

  • Farming and agriculture

  • Robotics and automatics

  • Automotive industry

  • Transport and logistics

  • Retail

  • Education

  • Healthcare

  • Medical research

To compete in this changing global landscape, all industries must aim to transform how they operate to increase efficiency. Innovation with the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and digital specialisms are required to implement new processes and working methods, which will enable the UK economy to keep up, now and after the pandemic is over. The most important step towards achieving a diverse workforce is recognizing and accepting that there is a significant difference in the opportunities available to minority groups. This is especially relevant for women in minority groups who have the least chance of progressing, regardless of their qualifications and skill levels.

Diversity and new business opportunities

Recent evaluations of UK board members have shown that women make up just 12.6% of the largest tech firms, with only 8.5% of higher positions from the BAME minority. Consequently, the rapid growth of digital applications has made it possible to establish a new business with very little funding. The lack of progression within larger tech organizations has led many individuals from the BAME community to start-up their own companies. There have been multiple success stories publicized on social media, news reports, business programs, and podcasts. To ensure that minority groups are not significantly underrepresented, established companies need to do more to ‘tackle gender inequality and improve ethnic diversity.’[2]


In 2017 the UK Tech Talent Charter was co-founded, and the new focus on increasing diversity within tech organizations seemed to be a positive move. Over 125 companies committed to recruiting and retaining a more diverse workforce and joined the UK Tech Talent Charter by 2018. However, in 2021, the UK tech sector has still not made any real progress. The lack of key decision-makers within BAME individuals in the UK tech sector, especially women, was highlighted again in 2019. The Chartered Institute for IT in 2019 showed only 17% of IT specialists were women and only 18% from BAME communities. Even more astounding statistics have found only an average of 9% of BAME IT specialists reached director level.

Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates and Global Tech Advocates, said: “These figures point to a shameful level of progress in increasing both the representation of women and BAME tech workers in the sector over the past five years – 1% and 2% uplifts respectively, is simply not good enough.”

Since the introduction of UK lockdown restrictions in 2020, diversity within the UK tech industry has again been put into the spotlight. Obviously, we need more equal representation to increase tech skills to enable the UK to embrace the wave of digital specialisms that will shape the future success of the UK economy.

Amali de Alwis, UK managing director of Microsoft for Startups, said, "While small increases in women and BAME IT workers are encouraging, the pace of change is disappointing."[3]

Tax relief for the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) and crowdfunding donations

Without a serious plan of action, developments of artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, and blockchain will quickly get behind. This will have a detrimental impact in enabling organizations to operate more effectively and efficiently. Start-ups now offer new opportunities to commit to a wider and more effective plan of action for increasing diversity within the sector. The UK government has introduced the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) to make it easier for new business enterprises to receive funding from business owners and high earners who can benefit from income tax relief and capital gains tax of up to 50%. SEIS investments are also protected from loss in value, with loss eligible to be offset against income tax for either the year they are sold or the previous year’s if higher.

Another way for UK companies to receive corporate tax relief is by offsetting debt against crowdfunding donations.


Women in Tech


“In September 2020, the CIO report showed only 10% of tech leaders in the UK are female, and we must all take responsibility to change this!” Natalia Nicholson, Director of Women in Digital Business (WIDB).


WIDB crowdfund aims to provide funds to at least 10 female-led UK entrepreneurs who have viable business ideas. For a modest donation, your company will receive an I Am Remarkable workshop. The IAR Google-led initiative is designed to support people from underrepresented backgrounds, to achieve their full potential. In recognition of your donation, a WIDB badge is also provided. The WIDB badge can be displayed on your social media, promotions, website, and correspondence to show everyone that you embrace diversity and inclusion in the workforce.


Do you want a free guide on Tax-efficient Investing for High Earners? Just click here.


 

Natalia Nicholson, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Natalia Nicholson is a Serial Entrepreneur, Business and Digital Marketing Coach, and Professional Public Speaker. Natalia has over 20 years of experience working as a digital serial entrepreneur and has had plenty of her own failures and success stories. This has perfectly placed her to offer insight and advice to other women aspiring to become digital entrepreneurs, together with those who have already launched their own businesses. Through her mastermind group, Women in Digital Business, Natalia teaches them the best way to leverage digital marketing potential and helps them learn the best ways of overcoming the challenges that they are facing when it comes to becoming successful online businesswomen. Her passion for online business coaching and digital marketing has inspired her to inspire women from largely overlooked underrepresented groups.

 

Resources:


[1] Inclusive Tech Alliance Report, Inclusive Tech Alliance

[2] Inclusive Tech Alliance Report, Inclusive Tech Alliance

[3] Why Tech Can’t Close the Diversity Gap

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