In a stark revelation, the Chartered Institute for IT (BCS) warns that the gender gap in the UK tech sector could persist for nearly 300 years if immediate and drastic measures are not taken. The institute’s annual Diversity Report unveils a concerning trend, indicating that despite nominal gains in recent years, the gender disparity is far from narrowing.
Efforts to bridge the gender gap in the UK tech sector have witnessed modest improvements in recent years, as highlighted in BCS’ annual Diversity Report. The proportion of female tech workers increased from 16% to 20% between 2018 and 2021, signaling progress. But, the institute’s analysis reveals a concerning stall in 2022, suggesting that the industry needs to intensify its efforts.
Julia Adamson, MBE, MD for education and public benefit at BCS, emphasizes the detrimental impact of overlooking a substantial talent pool, calling for more opportunities for women and girls to pursue careers in the tech industry. The relevance of diversity becomes even more critical in the face of advancing technology trends, including generative AI.
Impact of workplace culture on gender diversity
BCS sheds light on the potential negative repercussions of current trends in returning to the office. Jo Stansfield, co-chair of BCS Women, points out that the influx of women into the tech workforce during the pandemic, facilitated by remote work flexibility, could be reversed with a return to office mandates. The shift may force women to prioritize personal and family responsibilities over career aspirations, posing a threat to gender diversity.
Stansfield advocates for inclusive workplace policies that consider personal responsibilities, aiming to retain female workers and sustain the progress made during remote working conditions.
Gender gap dilemma – Challenges faced by women of color
The gender gap in the UK tech industry becomes even more complex when considering women of color. BCS data reveals that black women continue to be seriously underrepresented, with persistent barriers hindering their entry and retention in the sector.
Nicola Martin, a BCS and Women’s Engineering Fellow, highlights the significant challenges faced by women of color, including a lack of flexible working options, inadequate career development support, workplace ‘micro-aggressions,’ and a poisonous “tech bro” culture in certain companies. Martin stresses the need for collaborative efforts to address these issues and actively bring about change.
As the UK tech sector grapples with a daunting 283-year timeline to close the gender gap, urgent intervention is imperative. The annual Diversity Report underscores the industry’s responsibility to overcome challenges, particularly the potential setback posed by returning to office norms. The persistent underrepresentation of women of color further emphasizes the need for a united front in addressing these issues. How can industry stakeholders collaboratively ensure the inclusion of women and women of color, narrowing the gender gap in a more timely manner?