Diversity in Tech – The Awkward Conversation
IT leaders and policy makers need to create more diverse and inclusive teams - that’s the conclusion of a recent webinar held by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT.
Professor Dorothy Monekosso, one third of the panel for the ‘Diversity in Tech – The Awkward Conversation’ said: “We need a more diverse industry to create better products and services for everyone. Only when we have diverse teams, workforces, experiences all contributing to making diverse products and services will we be creating something that is fit for all purposes - diversity brings strength.”
BAME IT professionals are statistically less likely to be in positions of responsibility than those of white ethnicity - despite often being better qualified - according to the latest diversity report published by BCS. Only 9% of BAME IT specialists were directors and 32% of BAME workers described themselves as a manager or supervisor compared with 43% of white workers, research by BCS reveals. However, the overall percentage of BAME workers in IT is relatively high, according to the BCS’ 2020 Diversity Report, using data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Professor Monekosso also believes that: “Diversity is currently ticking boxes, but we need to get away from this and make it real and relatable. We need to stop talking statistics. Leaders and managers need to know and understand experiences of the people they lead regardless of the difficulties involved. Unless we decide that racial diversity is a problem we cannot change. We need to create a level playing field in young people.”
Senior lecturer and Chair of BCS Bedford Branch Dr Ip-Shing Fan added: “Some organisations are doing Diversity and Inclusion as a tick box exercises. We should all work as part of an open and fair society, being the best we can all be.”
The panel also included entrepreneur and Vice Chair of BCS, London Central Branch - Nzube Ufodike who said: “Leaders need to have inclusive work cultures at their core to ensure everyone feels welcome. Workforces must also represent the population.”
All the panellists agreed that simple, organisational changes can be made to alter the status quo, but it will require wider changes, sustained focus and collaboration across organisations, employers, Government, schools and community groups. The IT industry plays a huge part in the success of the UK economy, but the challenge is to ensure the benefits of this growth are spread equally across society. Some of the onus will be on organisations making sure the sector represents the UK as a whole. The IT profession is integral to the country’s success and prosperity both today and in our future. Everyone involved, including employers, policy-makers and professional bodies, has a responsibility to tackle the diversity challenges of the 21st century.
The panellists agreed that is essential for organisations to understand the benefits of a diverse workforce. They also shared their views on issues that they have experienced in terms of career progression – and the importance of role models and reverse mentoring
The group discussed the opportunities that need to be implemented to help ensure that the changes brought about by the Black Lives Matter movement that have the potential to make an authentic difference in IT. Tech employers need to guarantee that Diversity and Inclusion stays firmly on the corporate agenda and becomes integral to their strategy and routine activities. It is vital to make sure that such activity is sustainable - and that we continue to shine a light on racial diversity and inclusion - even when other news hits the headlines.
Fan encouraged the IT profession to look forward: “The projected skills demand in cyber, analytics and AI are huge. They are new areas and opportunities for all. There is not much point to wait for the old doors to open and glass ceilings to break. We have the wonderful opportunity to create new culture and new practices. Let us ensure everyone can take part and build this future.”
Nzube concluded: “Things are better now than they were 30 or 40 years ago, but things will have hopefully moved on a long way in another 30 or 40 years’ time. I look forward to the day when this issue is no longer one that needs to be addressed – because it is no longer an issue.”
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