Picture someone who works in the tech industry. What do they look like? Chances are the person who comes to mind is male, and they’re probably white. Maybe he’s one of those much-maligned urban millennials. It’s easy to see why our view might be that the tech industry is a little homogenous. It’s how we see it represented on TV, its what the cover of Time looks like when they feature a famous entrepreneur. But how accurate is that image?
Back in May we released our Tech Nation Report, the annual state of the nation on UK tech. As part of our research we took a look at the makeup of the UK tech industry. Startups are made up of people after all, so who are they? And how does reality compare to perceptions? We were interested in both.
What’s the reality?
It’s trivia time; what percentage of people working in tech are from BAME backgrounds? Is it A. 15%, B. 20%, or C. 25%? That’s what we asked a few willing participants in the Tech Nation Game Show, on the day we launched the Tech Nation report at the first of our nationwide tour of events in London. Take a look at what they said. Who said data isn’t fun!
Yes the answer is indeed A (well done Phil). 15% of the digital tech workforce in the UK are from BAME (Black, Asian, and minority ethnic) backgrounds, compared to 13% of the wider UK workforce, though there was a fair split of guesses across the board on this one, suggesting it wasn’t such an obvious answer.
This was mirrored through the results of the Tech Nation survey that made up part of the report. We asked 3,428 members of the UK tech community about the biggest strengths and challenges facing tech in their local area. While 40% of our survey respondents felt that ethnic diversity was low in the tech industry in their area, no region cited diversity of talent amongst their top three most pressing challenges.
Diversity of talent did feature as a top three strength in five of the areas surveyed according to the locals (Stevenage & Welwyn Garden City, Wolverhampton & Walsall, Crawley, Falmouth, and Dundee), while access to talent generally was the number 1 concern of the UK tech community.
Basically, perceptions are a little mixed.
Diversity vs. Inclusion
So 15%, is that a surprise? Chi-chi Ekweozor, Founder of Assenty said “it’s actually a bit more than I thought to be honest!” Does that mean tech has an image problem? Perhaps it could be more inclusive, even if diversity is higher than expected.
Diversity in a workforce refers to the representation of many types of people, it may refer to their background, the way they look, or the way they see, feel and experience the world. Inclusion in the workforce, arguably more important, is the embracing and utilising of that diversity, and the recognition if the strength offered through differences.
Community Manager of co-working space Launch22, Federico Piccinini agreed with Ekweozor, saying “it doesn’t seem to be an accessible area or sector for people coming from minorities.”
What’s being done?
Lots to do then, but thankfully there are a whole host of brilliant organisations out there working hard to make tech more inclusive to those in it, and more attractive to those thinking of joining in. We’ve posted a 🔥list of some of them in the thread below.
We’re also working with Capital Enterprise, YSYS, Diversity VC, The Accelerator Network, Loughborough University and the J.P. Morgan Chase Foundation on a new diversity in tech initiative aiming to double the number of female and BAME founders in three London boroughs (to begin with) by 2020.
Diversity means much more than ethnicity though of course. For the report we also took a look at the gender and age balance of the UK’s digital tech workforce. Why not take the quiz yourself, and look out for a few more videos coming soon…