Data and inclusive cultures key to increasing diversity in tech

Kane Fulton, June 18, 2021 3 min read

Founders used CogX 2021 to discuss a new D&I toolkit from Tech Nation designed to help scaling tech companies improve diversity and inclusion.

Companies with diverse teams have been shown to be more productive, build better products which represent their customers, attract top talent and potentially scale faster.

But many startups are missing out on these benefits by failing to consider gender, ethnic, and neuro-diversity when hiring and training people.

With the news this week that 1 in 10 UK jobs advertised are in tech, it’s more important than ever to help teams enact real change now. Increasing representation in the tech sector could lead to a stronger UK economy capable of driving growth in jobs and investment.

Created in partnership with D&I consultancy The Unmistakables, the new D&I Toolkit from Tech Nation aims to help by guiding tech founders and employees to build more diverse and inclusive businesses.

Claudia Cohen, Head of Client Services at talent and training provider futureproof, which supported the launch, encouraged founders to implement the toolkit’s recommendations around gathering diversity data.

“We found from analysing our own data that a lot of our neurodiverse candidates were dropping off at the video interview stage because they didn’t feel comfortable with that assessment,” she said.

“By having that data and looking into it, we were able to adapt that process and do something about it.”

Izzy Obeng, Managing Director at Foundervine, said: “When it comes to data, I think so often we discount experiences from people from different backgrounds, or who have traditionally been underrepresented, as anecdotal.

“Having that data in place means you can have meaningful evidence-based conversations on how to move the dial forward.”

Flipping a switch

Nikhil Shah, founder at MixCloud, said the phrase “diversity and inclusion” needs to be “flipped” to place a focus on building inclusive and welcoming company cultures.

“Designing your culture in a way where anyone who joins feels like they belong, and is going to succeed, will lead to a more diverse team at all levels, especially senior,” he said.

“I think the reality is that inclusion has to come first. Don’t start with the objective of needing to hire a non-white man into an executive board, start by asking whether people feel that they belong when they join your company.”

Nikhil is cofounder of the All In project, launched alongside the toolkit, which asks founders to commit to working on improving diversity and inclusion in their organisation.

“If we can get companies at an early stage to commit to building the right cultures, then we can design a society in the future that is going to be far more inclusive because these are the companies of tomorrow,” he said.

Investment

The tech sector is responsible for one tenth of UK job vacancies, attracting record investment ($7.6B) in the first quarter of 2021.

However, according to data from Extend Ventures, in 2019 just 1.7% of UK VC investment went to entrepreneurs from Black, South Asian, East Asian and Middle Eastern backgrounds.

In the past decade, only 3% has gone to all female teams.

Foundervine entered a three-year partnership with Lloyds Banking Group last year to launch an accelerator designed to get founders and their companies investment-ready.

The programme, which provided access to masterclasses, coaching and introductions, required applicants to have at least one black founder or c-suite executive.

“Lloyds have made a huge commitment to supporting inclusion internally and externally, making sure they are engaging the communities around them a lot more intentionally,” said Izzy.

“What has impressed me so much about their approach is being completely transparent and admitting they hadn’t got it right and that it hadn’t been on the table in the way that it should have been.”

Thinking about diversity and inclusion in our everyday practice, be it in hiring, communications, product development, or marketing has the potential to make real positive change to people’s lives.  So the question we have to ask ourselves is – ‘what are we doing now to make a difference?’

Tech Nation’s D&I toolkit is available here.

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