INDUSTRY REPORT: Tech Talent Charter Annual Diversity in Tech Report
Tech Talent Charter • Shana Ting Lipton (editor/writer/script writer)
An excerpt from the most recent Tech Talent Charter Annual Diversity in Tech Report, published in March 2022, and video from the 2020 report.
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The Tech Talent Charter (TTC) is committed to securing the future of the tech talent pipeline. A key driver of this is our annual Diversity in Tech report, which showcases curated diversity and inclusion (D&I) data we amass from our Signatory base of companies with tech needs in the United Kingdom. The purpose of this survey is to harness the power of data to help organisations make significant headway in this critical growth area. When UK businesses are willing to share good D&I data — what’s actually working or not working for them — it yields deep, nuanced insights that can benefit Signatories, other organisations, and more broadly the UK economy and society. As such, another aim of this report is to inspire more business leaders to share their D&I data with us, so we can create a more nuanced and complete picture of the state of diversity and inclusion.
Five years ago, when TTC was first founded, the companies that were forward-thinking enough to gather data – much less share it for the purposes of wider benchmarking – were few and far between. Nowadays, this is fast becoming the norm. Firms are no longer asking why they should be collecting workplace data, but rather how to do it more effectively. Today, Diversity in Tech is among the biggest, broadest, richest D&I surveys of the UK digital economy, and one of the few to be updated annually. The backdrop to this year’s report is a continuation of pandemic-precipitated working patterns, with technology having created greater accessibility and flexibility for some, while further isolating others.
As the dust settles and we navigate a post-Covid-19 future, hybrid working has arguably taken root in the ‘new normal’, with employees rebalancing priorities. The ‘Great Resignation’ has become more than just a hashtag, as a movement borne of career dissatisfaction gives way to hiring challenges. In the throes of this so-called ‘Big Quit’, it has been particularly difficult for companies to recruit suitable tech employees. Arguably, the answer to this problem is to broaden the talent pool to include more diverse candidates. However, this solution comes with its own circular dilemma as organisations may then grapple with the issue of hiring such diverse tech employees amid a general talent drought.
And it’s not just about recruitment. Companies can’t just hire their way out of the situation; even as they onboard new talent into their workforce, attrition amongst existing employees may nullify those gains. When it comes to diversity, retention and development are key considerations. Companies must help their employees fine tune the skills necessary to deliver high value in an increasingly tech-centric environment. They must also get better at retaining and growing diverse representation in leadership positions, while supporting and highlighting role models to attract talent.
There is much to learn from the tech training initiatives, such as code bootcamps, that have activated this space — supporting intensive skills-generating experiences for career changers. But what can businesses do to try and resolve the deeper issues, beyond addressing their own immediate commercial needs?
Taking our cue from the example of climate change, which has clearly dominated international public-private sector debate, it may be that immediate profits must be sacrificed in favour of meaningful longer-term investment that may take time to deliver returns. In the context of tech talent, this includes upskilling staff who are ready to leave and drawing younger generations whose buy-in cannot necessarily be taken for granted.
Another broad 2021 theme, ‘flattening the curve’, gives us further food for thought. The ubiquitous phrase has underpinned the public health strategy for slowing the spread of Covid, based on data modelling. It highlights the need for an explicit understanding of data, which may at times be deceptive or not tell the whole story — a sentiment which has been a source of great social division.
A related angst is playing out in the business world — in particular, in relation to D&I. Business in the West tends to orient itself around scientific reasoning – which stands on the edge of error. As such, there is a relentless test and learn sensibility, driven by a desire for improvement and further efficiency.
Companies are seeking a clear picture of what’s going on in their own backyards, so they can decide how best to plan and act in relation to D&I policies and practices. But acquiring the related data isn’t easy. Especially in a society that has become increasingly skeptical about business and government interests, and more alert to misuse of data. The question is then: how can organisations obtain accurate diversity data, and even harder-to-gather inclusion data, from their teams so they can identify problems and correctly measure solutions (from the edge of error), without fomenting colleague and customer mistrust?
On a macro level, Diversity in Tech 2021 can help businesses take the first step towards informed and effective D&I-focused action. It features fresh, timely data insights on diversity and inclusion, on an impressive scale — covering a wide range of companies powering the UK’s digital economy. This year’s report takes two additional steps forward. For the first time, we required Signatories to share data on ethnicity; and we have published both quantitative and qualitative diversity insights. Our 2021 report builds on what we advised in the 2020 edition: (continue to) have the tough conversations. And ensure that they’re relevant discussions, by obtaining and, perhaps more importantly, truly understanding the data that should be informing them.