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Thousands of black women ‘missing’ from the IT industry

Black Woman Working in IT, Focused on Work in Office

ARTICLE SUMMARY

Over 20,000 black women are ‘missing’ from the IT profession in the UK, according to a new report from leading industry groups.

The research, conducted by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT and Coding Black Females, found that black women remain under-represented in the information technology sector, and face barriers to progression, such as lack of flexible working, career development support and a strong ‘tech bro’ culture in some organisations.

The study found that whilst black women make up 1.8% of the UK workforce, they only make up 0.7% of IT professionals. This means for black women to be truly represented in IT there would need to be 20,000 more within the sector.

The three-part study analysed Labour Force Survey data from the ONS; sought views from over 350 black women working in tech; and conducted in depth interviews to create a picture of the prevailing inclusivity challenges.

67% of the Coding Black Females network – all tech professionals at a range of levels – felt they faced more barriers to entry into the tech industry than women from other ethnicities.  Nearly a quarter believe that current diversity and inclusion polices are having a negative effect in their ability to progress.

The percentage of all women in IT has increased only slightly over recent years from 17% of the IT workforce in 2017 to 22% in 2021, the report found

If gender representation as whole in IT were equal to the workforce ‘norm’ there would have been an additional 486,000 female IT specialists in the UK.

Scotland displayed the best gender balance, where women account for 32% of IT specialists.

Women also remain poorly represented amongst IT directors (just 17% of which in 2021 were female) and programmers/software developers (16%).

Ethnic minority representation in general is actually higher amongst IT specialists than within the workforce; that was largely due to the high proportion of tech professionals of Indian ethnicity.

Speaking about the findings, Charlene Hunter MBE, a BCS Board member and CEO of Coding Black Females said, “High-stakes fields like data science and cyber security desperately need many more technologists from a diverse range of backgrounds, who all see computer science as an ethical, aspirational career choice.”

“While there are some really inclusive IT organisations, our research with BCS found that successful black women (and women in general) working in tech are often where they are despite the prevailing culture and limited flexibility in their working options, and lack of inclusive working culture.”

“The fact is that a diverse tech profession produces much better products and outcomes, for example in teams working on AI.”

“We need senior leaders to match the large numbers of black women currently appearing in tech and engineering adverts, with genuine opportunities to progress into rewarding jobs.”

Rashik Parmar MBE, Chief Executive of BCS, The Charted Institute for IT, added, “We will only be able to build the systems that serve everyone if the diversity of humanity is represented in the project teams that design and build those systems.”

“The gender gap in IT is showing signs of narrowing and groups such as BCS Women have worked for many years to move the dial.”

“Coding Black Females are inspiring women of colour into digital careers, but our joint report shows the tech profession still has profound work to do to become truly inclusive, trusted and ready to solve the world’s greatest challenges.”

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