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August 9, 2023
Inclusive workplaces are vital for all industries, but particularly tech. The U.K. tech industry is growing exponentially, from AI startups to fast-growing fintechs. But it is still struggling to attract and retain a diverse workforce.
The tech sector is built on breakthrough ideas and new approaches to solving age-old problems. A diverse workforce boosts innovation and creativity by bringing different perspectives and life experiences together.
Research from global nonprofit Catalyst found that when organisations establish inclusive business cultures and policies, they are 59% more likely to see an increase in innovation, creativity and openness.
The same principle applies in managerial, leadership and board-level positions, where groupthink can be detrimental. When everyone in the room thinks the same way, it can be difficult to come up with new ideas or solutions.
Organisations need to make it easier for people from diverse backgrounds to enter the tech industry. Existing underrepresentation can be attributed to various factors such as historical biases, limited access to educational opportunities and societal stereotypes.
As a result, there is a smaller pipeline of talent from diverse backgrounds. For example, Tech City UK found that as few as 13% of women entering the talent market hope to work in the tech industry. This means that despite earnest efforts, tech leaders are struggling to turn good intentions into reality.
Overcoming these challenges can be achieved through various means, such as implementing inclusive hiring practices, proactively recruiting from underrepresented groups, partnering with educational institutions and embracing flexible working. Diversifying their talent pool enables organisations to bring a richer range of skills, perspectives and experiences into their business.
To make the tech industry more diverse, inclusive and, in turn more innovative, leaders must begin with setting actual tangible goals, just as they would any business objective.
Similarly, companies must also be transparent about their targets and initiatives, constantly gathering feedback and input from employees and sharing real-time progress with stakeholders and the wider world. At Thoughtworks, we aim to maintain 40% gender diversity in tech roles. Each of our regions has an additional focus area for diverse hiring within underrepresented groups in their countries, for example honing in on race, ethnicity, disability and/or LGTBQ.
To advance and operationalise DEI efforts, organisations must nurture a culture in which employees feel empowered to ask questions, challenge assumptions and share experiences and opinions.
For some employees, this might be a daunting proposition, so opportunities should be provided through training, workshops and mentorship programs. By appointing executive “owners” of specific diversity areas, organisations can focus expertise and amplify marginalised voices.
By operationalising these principles, organisations can unlock the transformative power of DEI and establish inclusive environments where all individuals can thrive. From blue-chip firms to young startups, it’s not just the right thing to do, but the best.
Amy Lynch is the London-based head of diversity, equity and inclusion for tech consultancy Thoughtworks (UK). She has worked with technology teams for more than a decade and is committed to amplifying the voices of those who often go unheard and underserved.
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