Tech Talent Charter's 2021 report: What works for UK firms that embrace D&I?

Five years after its inception, Tech Talent Charter is widening its focus to tackle inequalities in the UK tech sector that go beyond gender.

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Companies that have signed on to the Tech Talent Charter (TTC)'s diversity efforts saw the number of reported tech roles held by women rise from 25% to 27% last year and indicated that gender minority representation remains about 6% higher than it is for the overall tech workforce in the UK.

Those data points are among the details included in the TTC's latest Diversity in Tech 2021 report. TTC is a leading non-profit driving diversity efforts amongst the UK’s tech workforce; it measures the activities and progress being made towards inclusion, equity and diversity by its signatory companies.

That list of companies includes Spotify, Deliveroo, General Dynamics, Very Group, and Marie Curie.

The 2021 report is the first to include ethnicity data, which companies could opt to share this year. (Reporting on ethnicity will be mandatory going forward.) The representation of ethnic minorities amongst TTC Signatory organisations was 20% — higher than the UK tech workforce average of 16%.

Ethnic minority workers make about 11% of the wider UK workforce.

What works when it comes to D&I

When trying to determine what works best for companies looking to bolster diveristy, TTC has taken a data-driven approach, according to Debbie Forster, CEO and co-founder of non-profit. Companies were asked about not only what they were doing but about what isn't working and where improvements are still needed.

Launched in 2017, the group aims to help organisations in the tech sector surface best practices around diversity that can be shared. According to TTC’s 2021 report, there are at least 20 different interventions that are vital to diversity efforts.

While there is no “single magic bullet and no single order in which things happen,” Forster said, TTC is now beginning to see patterns in how companies succeed. For companies boasting the most gender and ethnically diverse tech workforce, the efforts that have proven to be most successful include:

  • Building awareness about D&I efforts;
  • Setting D&I targets and measurements and making managers/leaders accountable for their actions;
  • Using auditing processes and systems to mitigate bias;
  • Gathering employee feedback/measuring inclusion;
  • D&I training;
  • Paying for external D&I services.

The 2021 report relies on data from 580 organisations, an increase of 162 year on year. TTC estimates its group represents around 15-16% of the current UK tech-skilled labour force, making it one of the largest and most up-to-date datasets of its kind — comparable to Office of National Statistics datasets. The companies taking part range from micro to super-large, and include IT workers in 70 different industries. Tech workers surveyed were based in all 12 regions of the UK and 10% have adopted remote working or are location-agnostic.

In comments published alongside the report, Deloitte UK said it has updated its hiring manager training to explicitly address racial bias and made changes to its early careers recruitment process.

“For example, based on research, we have removed the final stage presentation requirement, re-designed our assessment materials and launched a new candidate preparation guide to ensure Black candidates aren’t disadvantaged," Deloitte UK said. "The impact of this has been to close the conversion rate gap between Black colleagues and those from other ethnic backgrounds."

In a separate comment, Unilever PLC said it wants to be “at the cutting edge of using results-driven, scientific approaches to tackling bias.”

Since 2018, Unilever has partnered with Iris Bohnet, a public policy profressor at Harvard University; that partnership led the company to launch a metric called the Gender Appointment Ratio (GAR). It is calculated as the total number of women appointed over a five-year period, divided by the total number of men appointed.

“Presenting line managers with the big picture of their appointment decisions over a five-year period raises their awareness and helps them make the unbiased choices the next time the opportunity arises,” Unilever said.

Diveristy challenges remain

Despite recent progress, Forster said there’s still a lot of work to be done. One of the biggest problems facing the UK tech sector is an ever-growing skills gap. While larger structural and societal changes can help, individual companies also need to expand their recruitment pipelines beyond traditional routes into the industry.

In fact, attracting diverse talent amidst a tech talent shortage was the most frequently reported concern among companies taking part in TTC's work.

A key focus for the non-profit in 2022 is to focus on how employers can use alternative routes to attract tech employees and make them routine for more companies. The efforts come even as the industry faces the "Great Resignation," making the fight for talent fierce.

(All IT related job vacancies now account for 13% of all UK open job vacancies.)

An ongoing problem cited by TTC signatories in the 2021 was a lack of diversity in senior positions. Forster said companies need to remember that, when it comes to diversity, it’s not just about getting people in the door; it's also about making sure there’s active systems in place to ensure those from under-represented backgrounds can move into executive leadership roles.

In 2021, TTC partnered with We Are Tech Women and Ipsos MORI to explore the perceived barriers for women in progressing their careers, as well as to identify what's important when seeking new roles. The top reason women change or stay in jobs is salary, meaning companies that fail to address the gender pay-gap are going to struggle to retain talent.

Companies such as non-profits or those in the public sector that can't offer competitive salaries can still do a lot to attract talent.

“It’s having the right managers, the right culture, offering clear, transparent promotional opportunities and allowing flexible working,” she said. “Any company, whatever your size, wherever you are in the country, you can get that right. And the business case is there. Getting the talent in makes you more money, losing your talent costs you.”

That's why TTC's efforts are important: once companies have real data on diversity, they can begin using it to understand where the problems are, how to target interventions and how to measure the impact of their efforts. They can then share the data with middle managers to build targets and and accountability.

“All the pieces of the puzzle are out there,” she said. “We've not assembled the whole puzzle yet, but we're starting to see the image come together.”

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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