A 2020 study on companies in the tech industry found that only 44% of tech employees worked at an organisation with a diversity and inclusion department. When you look into the demographics that make up the majority of employees in the tech, engineering and IT sectors, it’s clear to see that diversity and inclusion in the workplace is an area that still needs serious work in these sectors.
A lack of diversity in the tech industry benefits nobody, and this article will explore many of the ways in which businesses will outperform competitors when they invest in a diverse and inclusive workplace. But in light of current skills shortages in the IT and engineering industries, and the general economic difficulties facing the UK at the moment, improving diversity in technology businesses could help to tackle these issues as well.
For example, a report from Code First Girls and NatWest identified that gender parity in the tech sector could add £2.6 billion to the UK economy every year. By ensuring that candidates from all backgrounds and identities are given equal opportunities to work in the tech industry, there’s a lot of potential for plugging skill gaps and boosting the economy.
Creating diversity and inclusion in the workplace is a task that requires work from everyone in a business, but this effort has a very positive ROI that impacts a range of areas within a company. In this article, we share our insight into the state of diversity and inclusion in tech, explore who benefits from a diverse, inclusive workplace and talk about our experience helping companies improve the diversity of their teams.
What Is Inclusion and Diversity in the Workplace?
Inclusion is the act of including someone or something in a group, whilst diversity refers to a mixture of people or things. These two terms are often used together when talking about equality in the workplace, as they’re both important aspects of creating a workforce that is fair, representative and accessible to everyone.
Diversity and inclusion in the workplace involves creating a work environment in which everyone is equally involved, supported and represented. It means having a workforce that consists of people from a range of backgrounds and identities, which requires an inclusive recruitment process and a conscious effort to recognise and eliminate bias.
Creating organisational diversity requires working to ensure that a range of voices and experiences are represented in your workforce and then creating a culture in which all of these people feel safe, respected and given the same opportunities. It can be a challenging process, but it brings with it a lot of benefits.
The State of Diversity in Tech
Engineering, IT and technology are all industries that have a reputation for a lack of diversity. The domination of roles by candidates that are white and male is well known, and whilst conscious effort is now being made to tackle this inequality, there’s still a lot of progress needed.
A recent report on diversity in tech from the Tech Talent Charter highlighted that 28% of tech employees belong to gender minority groups and 25% of tech workers belong to ethnic minority groups. When looking at senior positions in tech companies, 22% of senior roles are held by gender minorities and ethnic diversity is only 13%.
Gender and ethnicity are often the primary focus when discussing workplace diversity and inclusion, but there’s more to consider that concerns the tech industry as well. Disability, sexuality, neurodiversity and age are all aspects of identity that should be equally represented in companies, and yet are all areas where discrimination prevents people from these groups from having the same employment opportunities.
A study by CWJobs surveyed a range of UK employees and found that 41% of tech workers have experienced ageism at work, in comparison to 27% across other industries. The average age that an employee in tech experiences ageism was identified as 29, which is a decade younger than most employees in other sectors.
Many tech and IT jobs have the potential to be accessible for those with physical disabilities, due to work that can be done remotely using devices. However, a study by TechUK found that only 9% of IT specialists in the UK have a disability, even though 19% of the UK working population has a disability.
In the past couple of years, there has been a marked improvement in diversity in the tech industry in some areas, with many businesses pledging to make a more conscious effort to diversify their workforce and create a more inclusive culture. But the process of doing this can be long and some companies are guilty of trying to look like they’re making an effort without facilitating any meaningful change.
Why Is Diversity and Inclusion Important?
The benefits of diversity and inclusion in the workplace extend to things like profits, innovation and growth, which we’re going to talk about later in this article. But the importance of a diverse workforce should also be considered because it leads to wider industry change that makes the tech industry a better and more inclusive place to work.
Tech is an area where minority groups are historically underrepresented, and this lack of diversity creates an image of the industry that is consequently off-putting to minority candidates. This creates a cycle where the same kind of people continue to get roles in tech and dominate the industry, whilst underrepresented groups avoid applying because they don’t see themselves represented.
A lack of inclusion can also make it harder for employees from minority groups to feel comfortable and like they fit in at work, which can lead to a lack of enjoyment and trouble feeling like they belong. Most people spend a significant proportion of their time at work, and everyone deserves to work somewhere where they feel included and represented.
The business case for diversity is huge, with all kinds of proven benefits for tech companies that hire a diverse group of employees. Promoting diversity and inclusion in tech and setting an example with your teams and recruitment methods is important now because it will lead to industry-wide change. Improving company culture, hiring diverse candidates at all levels and consciously creating more diverse organisations will all play a part in this, and stop the IT industry from being an area where a lack of diversity is inhibiting growth.
How Can Equality and Diversity Benefit Businesses?
Along with more person-centred advantages of diversity in the workplace, there are plenty of reasons why investing in an inclusive and diverse workforce has a high ROI. Whilst necessary structural and cultural changes may feel difficult to begin with, there are many ways in which inclusive tech companies will eventually outperform their competitors.
A piece of research that regularly gets quoted when discussing the business case for diversity is the ‘Diversity Wins’ report from McKinsey, investigating the link between diverse teams and financial performance across 15 countries. One of their key findings was that companies “in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile”. When teams have equal representation of gender identities, their companies are likely to make more money.
This trend continued when the study looked at companies in the top quartile for ethnic and cultural diversity, who “outperformed those in the fourth one by 36% in profitability”. In both cases, the more diverse the company was, the higher the likelihood that it would outperform less diverse competitors.
Another study by Great Place to Work found that “100 companies with the largest gaps between the experiences of white employees and minorities had significantly lower revenue growth than the 100 companies with the smallest disparity”. If your business has a culturally and ethnically diverse range of employees in positions across the company’s hierarchy, there’s a predicted average of 11.1% revenue growth, compared to the 8.6% of companies with less diversity.
Along with benefits regarding revenue growth and overall performance, having diverse teams in your tech company also leads to greater innovation. Research by Josh Bersin found that inclusive companies were 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders in their market, which often leads to greater financial growth and a better reputation. In the tech industry in particular, innovation is a huge advantage, and building a more diverse workforce is one of the best ways to facilitate this.
As well as having a direct impact on things like innovation and growth, diversity and inclusion in tech companies can also help to improve company culture, which in turn has a positive impact on things like productivity, motivation and engagement. Various reports on factors influencing organisational culture from Great Place to Work have found that employees who feel that they are treated fairly at work regardless of their identity are 6.3 times more likely to be proud of their work and 9.8 times more likely to look forward to going to work.
Employees that report being treated fairly by their employer are also 5.4 times more likely to want to stay at the company for a long time. So not only can an inclusive and diverse workplace culture improve employee experience, but it’s also proven to increase retention.
Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace is a process that takes time and commitment from everyone involved, but it can benefit your company and boost your performance by:
- Increasing financial growth
- Facilitating more innovation
- Improving employee retention
- Improving employee experience
How KO2 Can Help to Create a Diverse and Inclusive Workplace
Organisational diversity in tech companies starts with your recruitment process. Companies need to make a conscious effort to ensure that their applicant pools are representative of all kinds of people and consider how they’re going to diversify by fairly hiring employees from minority groups.
Working with a recruitment agency is a great way to improve diversity from a hiring perspective, and if you’re an electronic embedded systems company then we’re a recruitment specialist that can find diverse talent that will elevate your team. Instead of struggling to establish a DEI recruitment strategy yourself, our team will help to find a more representative selection of candidates for your roles, helping to diversify your workforce.
We have successfully helped to diversify plenty of teams in the embedded systems and software sector of the engineering and IT industry, building on our exclusive knowledge of this area and what these kinds of companies require from their candidates. By working with KO2, you can trust that we’ll find the best candidates to improve the diversity of your team and bring precisely the kind of experience and skills you need to your business.
There have been plenty of improvements in workplace diversity and inclusion in the tech industry in the past few years, but there’s still a long way to go in terms of making this industry fully inclusive and representative of people with a range of identities. Improving your recruitment process to ensure that you’re hiring from a diverse pool of candidates is a great place to start, and working with a recruitment expert can make this experience much more successful from the start.
If you’re an employer in the electronic embedded systems sector, KO2 is a specialist recruitment agency that can help you to build a diverse team of engineers and developers. Get in touch to speak to our team about how we can help, or find more information on our client page.