Diversity. Having worked in the equality and diversity field over several decades, I’ll be the first to admit that I sometimes fear diversity has become more of a buzzword than a real force for inclusiveness.
Diversity is the buzzword in everything from workshops to expos and conferences and everything in-between, but what about in the workplace? It’s all too easy to get execs to give talks and bold statements or host glitzy awards about the importance of diversity and yet it’s still so difficult to find actual examples of growth and success.
“When its potential is tapped, diversity is a powerful tool. But we won’t manage this with facile training sessions and snooze-fest seminars.” Belinda Parmar
Twenty years ago my company 15 Degrees paved the way for diversity marketing in the UK. It was far from easy but very rewarding. That’s why it disappoints me that diversity conversations are still ongoing mostly because they seem to be just that: conversations. Tech is an industry that is notoriously tough to crack and needs so much more than motivational talks. According to reports by Tech London Advocates, almost half of London’s technology companies do not believe a diverse workforce improves company growth. This attitude is reflected in the statistics on gender (of 40,000 firms based in London nearly 1,000 have an entirely male workforce) but racial diversity is even worse.
The percentage of black employees at YouTube and Twitter just about says it all as they represent only 2% of the total workforce. Twitter employs just 49 black people out of a total US workforce of 2,910. Facebook only hired seven black people in its latest diversity count. Ethnic minority graduates in Britain are much less likely to be employed than their white peers six months after graduation and many can expect to earn less for years afterwards. It’s a murky and multi-layered issue with technology companies often blaming the recruitment pipeline and claiming there aren’t enough people in the BAME community graduating with relevant degrees and applying for jobs in tech. Yet the data shows that there are many more BAME students studying computer science and engineering. So why isn’t this reflected in the workplace?
According to a study by the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex, BAME graduates are up to 15% less likely to be employed than their white British peers six-months after graduation. Not to mention huge disparities in wages for ethnic minority women and black Caribbean men who do manage to find jobs after graduation and their white counterparts. We need real, pro-active solutions to create a diverse tech industry.
This is why I was thrilled to hear about a brand new consortium of nine black technology professionals who have come together to form UK Black Tech. Tech specialist at Vodafone and co-founder of career mentoring brand Your Future, Your Ambition Rashada Harry says: ‘UKBT believes in the power of diversity in advancing equality and equity in tech. We emphasise that diversity & inclusion are not just a moral issue, but a key to the tech sector’s economic performance and growth.’
We need great minds like these to come together and raise the profile of different faces in the UK Tech Sector. One in four children at primary schools are from a BAME population, yet only one in eight go on to be employed. Serious conversations aren’t enough, this is a serious issue that demands serious efforts.
We must work to create well-rounded leaders, with the key knowledge, skills, motivation and awareness to deliver practical steps to improve individual and the businesses performance. If we can support the leaders of tomorrow and assist the leaders of today to inspire, motivate and deliver success then I believe we can stop having the diversity conversation and start seeing tangible results on every level and at every stage.
Written By: Dr Diahanne Rhiney