Britain’s Tech Sector Has the Worst Leadership Gender Diversity

Scottish Gender Equality

A new study has shown a that the UK’s technology sector is lagging far behind the FTSE 100 and the wider economy in terms of gender diversity. 

The UK tech sector is dragging its feet in regards to diversity on a number of measures, including gender, race and class representation.

This is one of the key findings from a report by recruitment agency Inclusive Boards, which highlighted that, compared with other sectors, the tech sphere has a “worrying” lack of diversity among its senior leadership.

A mere 8.5% of senior leaders in tech are from a minority background, while women only make up 12.6% of board members, which when compared to other industries provides a stark contrast – 30% female representation has been achieved by FTSE 100 businesses. Inclusive Boards examined data from 500 of the UK’s largest tech firms, collecting the demographic information of 1,882 executives and a further 1,696 board members.

Samuel Kasumu, director of Inclusive Boards, said: “The figures are particularly worrying when you consider how important the tech sector is. It contributed close to £200 billion to the economy in the last year and its growth rate is 2.5 times faster than the whole economy.

“Every other sector is reliant on technology – you have edtech, fintech, govtech and healthtech. Our future, every single aspect of our lives, is increasingly becoming reliant on technology. So it’s very, very dangerous and alarming to see that particular groups are not being able to fully participate in the sector, and in a sense are being left behind.”

Gender is Where the Sector Performs Worst

The report found that almost two-thirds of boards, and more than 40% of senior leadership teams, have no female representation at all, while across the sector the average is just 12.6% of board members and 16.6% of senior executives.

These findings are supported by a separate government-commissioned report on gender in FTSE-350 boardrooms, Hampton Alexander Review, which found that five firms had no women directors and 25% had only one woman in the boardroom. Sir Philip Hampton, the review chairman, described those businesses as “clearly out of touch” and suggested a consumer boycott of businesses that failed to promote women to top jobs.

Not only did the sector have poor gender diversity, the socio-economic background of the sector differs vastly from wider UK society. More than 33% of board members and 31% of senior executives attended private schools, compared to just 8% of the UK as a whole. However, it did come close to fair representation over racial diversity. One in nine senior leaders in the industry comes from black, Asian or minority backgrounds (BAME), compared to one in 12 for the FTSE 100. But that figure still trails the UK as a whole, because one in seven of the population has a BAME background.

Tech Companies Blame the Talent Pipeline

In response to the current unbalanced status-quo, tech companies argue that it is hard to achieve diversity because of the lack of right talent in the pipeline. They say that there is not enough diversity in the students studying STEM subjects at school and university and, subsequently, in those graduates who choose to go into the tech sector.

However, Kasumu dismisses this traditional response: “When you look at the typical board member, it is less likely that they would be somebody from a developer background. We all know the story of Mark Zuckerberg, but that’s not necessarily a traditional story. It is usually somebody with a different type of expertise, who has a value that doesn’t require them to be a coder.

“On a board you can have a finance director, an HR specialist, a legal and compliance specialist, and somebody who’s really well connected and involved in communications. At board level, variety is the key strength point. So there’s no real reason why the tech sector should be so disproportionately worse than other sectors at board and senior leadership level.”

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