Revealed: gender diversity in Northern digital tech roles

Henri Egle Sorotos, December 15, 2017 3 min read

This article was originally posted on the Tech North website.

Want to work as a developer in a gender-balanced Northern team? Your best bet is Cumbria….

81% of Northern IT and tech workers in technical roles are male. Gender diversity is a hot topic at the moment, and I’ve been trying to get my head around the subject with some numbers and data viz.

Anecdotally, I am all too aware of the gender imbalance in digital tech industries. As a self-identifying man, it’s clear that myself and my male counterparts dominate the industry. I hear and see this on a near daily basis.

It’s an issue – and one that is clearly the responsibility of us all to solve.

Christmas came early for me this week when I stumbled upon this. An ONS bespoke cut from the Annual Population Survey from the 16-17 period. This dataset in particular analysed employment by industry, sex and region. What a time to be alive!

The gender divide

A total of 52.9% of working individuals across all industries in the North of England are male, 47.1% are female. The equivalent ratio in technical digital tech occupations sees men dominate 81% of all roles. Figure 1 gives an idea of this gulf across NUTs regions in the North of England.

Lancashire proportionally has the most stark male to female divide in the tech and IT professions – 85% of individuals are male. At the other end of the spectrum, neighbouring Cumbria is the most ‘gender equal’ with only 78.48% male tech workers.

In reality, there is very little variation across the region. This is a characteristic of the workforce across the region, and is not isolated to a given area.

Is this just a Northern problem?

Figure 2 depicts the spread across the entire UK.

South Western Scotland and the Highlands currently lead the way in tech workplace gender equality in the UK – 33% and 27.7% female representation respectively. These are certainly outliers. Devon on the other hand has only 5.9% female representation amongst IT and tech roles. I had to remove Cornwall from the sample due to a low overall count, but needless to say this is a widespread issue in the South-West of England.

Overall, Northern tech diversity figures are very similar to the UK-wide average.

Other industries with a gender imbalance

So where are other male and female dominated industries across the North of England? Manual trades such as building, fishing and construction are dominated by male workers. At the other end of the spectrum animal care, secretarial professions and nursing roles are disproportionately held by women. Figures 3 and 4 reveal all.

Some caveats

This analysis certainly isn’t perfect. Figures are based on the SOC taxonomy from the Office for National Statistics. It only covers roles that fall under the occupation codes “IT and telecommunications professionals” and “Information Technology technicians”. SOC codes are standard categories for occupations across the UK used for data analysis. They are often slow to change, and have scuppered the analysis of modern fast-paced industries such as tech for years.

It’s worth noting that diversity doesn’t stop at gender. I’m keen to look at ethnicity, disability, sexuality and age figures across the sector, too. I have recently been granted ONS approved researcher status which should allow some deeper analysis of more detailed datasets. I am hoping to get cracking with this in the New Year.

In the meantime, do get in touch if you have any further thoughts for follow-up work. I am happy to share my heavily re-formatted dataset and schema which made this work possible as an early christmas present.

Data & research, Women in tech