Women make up 24 per cent of tech employees at companies signed up to the Tech Talent Charter diversity initiative, up from 19 per cent last year and far ahead of the nationwide figure of 17 per cent.
The Charter announced the new figures as part of its annual benchmarking report which measures the diversity and inclusion strategies at tech companies such as HP, Accenture and Cancer Research to showcase what’s working and what’s not when it comes to encouraging more women into the industry.
“There’s still a lot to do,” CEO Debbie Forster told the Standard. “But what’s exciting is we’re starting to have some stats to reinforce what we’re saying, looking at the correlation of companies who are bringing in diversity and inclusion strategies, setting targets for more diverse shortlists, for returners and retraining programmes.”
The Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport was one of the first UK government departments to sign up to the TTC and invested £189,000 in the organisation last year to fund its diversity mission.
Secretary of State Baroness Morgan said the figures released today were “encouraging”. “It shows that firms who have signed up are making more progress than firms that haven’t,” she told the Standard. “Women make up 50 per cent of the country, workforce and diversity of views and we want 50 per cent of people to be sharing in that success.”
Morgan points to the study by McKinsey that found in the UK, for every 10 per cent increase in the diversity of a company’s senior executive team, profitability rose by 3.5 per cent. “We want the benefits of tech to be felt more widely and more fairly,” she added.
So what has changed since last year? Forster believes there has been a shift in the way the industry is talking about diversity. However, she’s keen that companies approach it in the right way and not just like a “diversity takeaway menu” as she describes it. “That’s when companies are panicked and run around saying ‘I’ll have a disabled person, three women and an order of chips to go.’ That’s not going to make a difference.”
In order to counteract this, TTC launched its Open Playbook, a series of best practice for companies looking to improve their own DI initiatives. In particular this year, TTC is focusing on retraining and returning programmes as a way to encourage more women to improve their digital skills and take up roles in the industry. Among signatories, 49 per cent of companies do not have a returning programme.
As a result, the organisation has created a programme with Le City Council as well as companies such as Sky, Accenture and Lloyd’s, to create a retraining scheme. Sky has committed to train up more women than it ne for positions in the company, so smaller companies who cannot afford to hold their own schemes can have access to talent. Earlier this year, the government introduced the Digital Skills entitlement fund, an £84 million fund to offer free digital skills courses to adults across the country.
In addition, the TTC hopes to broaden out its diversity work from focusing solely on women to encompass all types of diversity, such as neurodiversity, ethnicity and mental health. In particular, Forster points to how learnings on what works best for women can work for other diverse team members, such as when it comes to job descriptions.
“When you want to recruit more women, you want shorter job descriptions. If there are 10 things on there, a woman will only go for it if she can do nine or 10. Interestingly, there’s similar research that if you’re trying to recruit people who are more neurodiverse, they can be very literal. So again, if they can’t do the 10 things they’re not going to apply. Shorter job adverts are going to help you not just with women, it’s going to help you with diversity,” explained Forster.
The Charter has introduced five things its members can do to build a more inclusive organisation throughout the year, such as carrying out DI audits, explore alternative pathways to provide under-represented groups with a route into tech, and set goals for diversity on hiring shortlists and measure the impact this has.
“The reasons we started this is I said if I have to go to one more roundtable on why there are no women in tech and say the same thing again, my head is going to explode. And we said, surely we can bring this together?
“We’re all looking for inclusive employers, we want to work in places that treat us like humans. And then if we’re getting the great people, the great talent in these companies, they’re going to make great products and services,” she added.