By Jaydeep Saha, Contributing Writer, HCL Technologies Ltd. 

 

Even though diversity and gender equality at workplaces around the globe has been a trending topic for several years now, a joint report by Coding Black Females (CBF) and BCS recently said up to 20,000 black women are “missing” from the tech industry in the United Kingdom—the proportion of black women in tech is two-and-a-half times smaller than that of the total U.K. workforce.

The respondents of the report felt that more could be done to encourage black female applicants, including working in relevant communities to raise awareness of opportunities.

Campaigners Coding Black Females said the tech industry “desperately needed” more people from a wide range of backgrounds. The report stated that black women make up 1.8 percent of the U.K. workforce, but only 0.7 percent of those are working in the tech sector.

“We need senior leaders to match the large numbers of black women currently appearing in tech and engineering adverts, with genuine opportunities to progress into rewarding jobs,” said Charlene Hunter, chief executive of Coding Black Females, who feels women’s experiences showed there were still barriers to getting a job in tech.

The continuing problem of a lack of diversity and inclusion persists through leadership positions, with women accounting for only 17 percent of IT directors and above in 2021.

“We will only be able to build the systems that serve everyone if the diversity of humanity is represented in the project teams that design and build these systems,” Rashik Parmar, chief executive of the BCS, the professional body for computing, told the BBC.

Both the industry and the Rishi Sunak government “should work together to inspire, educate and attract diverse talent to ensure black women—and women in general—enter and rise through the industry,” said Nimmi Patel, from trade association Tech UK. She added “clearly more must be done” to ensure diversity and inclusion within the tech workforce.

Little progress

STEM Women—a company which organizes networking and careers events—said there has been little improvement in addressing the gap in the sector.

According to STEM Women, the number of women in the STEM workforce in the U.K. increased marginally between 2016 and 2019 (from 21 to 24 percent) and predicted that women will still hold under 30 percent in the sector by 2030.

Technology providers can change the status quo

Technology providers have a significant role to play in bridging the gap and paving the way for more diverse groups and their inclusion in the workforce.

HCLTech, for example, aims to be at the forefront of encouraging diversity and inclusion in tech with its #SheInspires program.

“One rule above all others that I followed in my life is to have a disproportionate focus on high-impact, high-outcome work, shutting the noise out and keeping my eyes fixed on the big picture. This has ensured that I have been able to advance in my career. My advice is to not waste time sweating the small stuff or wasting your energy on politics, noise, ego, hassles - none of that matters in the long run to your success - only high impact outcomes matter,” said Zulfia Nafees, Vice President, M&C-CM-Brand-Brand, HCLTech.

Identifying and championing female role models is also essential in the diversity and inclusion drive. The #SheInspires program captures the life stories of women who’ve blazed a trail in the STEM fields.

“I contribute a lot of my success to the people who’ve been there for me, who’ve coached me...I think you have to leverage that...and then turn around and help the next person, put your hand back and help them move forward,” said Bona Collins, Senior Director, Apps & SI Del-MEGA LT-MFG-Scale SBD AMS, HCLTech.

Following by example

Organizations need to commit to improving levels of diversity in tech in the workplace and set targets. This is important, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because more diverse organizations are stronger performers than non-diverse businesses. The threat of bias from technologies, like AI, is also a factor in increasing levels of diversity and inclusion.

HCLTech aims to have 40 percent in the workforce by 2030 and wants to increase gender representation in senior leadership levels to 30 percent.

HCLTech’s Sustainability Report 2022 details the strategy and plan to achieve these goals along with how the company has progressed to date in bridging the gap.

HCLTech is also one of 418 companies across 45 countries and regions to join the 2022 Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index (GEI) for the second consecutive year.  It has placed highly in seven of eight DivHERsity Awards 2022 including in the Top 5 and Top 20 category of diversity programs and policies.