IT employers must finally commit to tackling diversity in UK tech

IT employers must finally commit to tackling diversity in UK tech

Computer Weekly’s annual event to announce our list of the 50 most influential women in UK IT has become our most popular event of the year. We’re delighted with the way the IT community has engaged with the programme to recognise and promote the amazing female role models in technology.

The programme goes from strength to strength. This year, we had nearly 150 women nominated for the list – three times the number when the list was first put together in 2012. Our online reader vote attracted over 7,500 votes – 50% more than the previous year. And the social media activity around the announcement this week generated more than 10 million Twitter impressions from over 1,100 tweets.

At one stage, our event hashtag #CWwit50 was trending as the sixth most popular Twitter topic in the UK. If it weren’t for the Budget, the Ashes cricket, Wimbledon and One Direction, we might have been number one.

That’s a huge endorsement of the need to encourage more women and girls to consider a career in technology – and a massive nudge to recruiters to actively seek to employ more women in IT.

And yet…

The reality remains that the proportion of women working in UK IT continues to fall – some surveys put the figure as low as 14%. Even if you consider the wider definition of people working in digital jobs, the proportion of women has dropped consistently and is now just 26%.

These are figures that continue to shame and humiliate technology employers in the UK. It is a brutal fact that the UK will fail to make the most of its opportunity in the digital economy unless it can find the near half a million people estimated to be required to address skills shortages in the next five years. We will not fill all those jobs by only recruiting from half the talent pool.

Furthermore, as the digital revolution increasingly touches every aspect of our lives, the UK needs a technology workforce that reflects the full diversity of the people who use that technology.

But frankly, we’ve written exactly those sentiments every year, and nothing has really changed, despite the growing awareness of the problem. As one senior female IT leader said at our event – we need to forget the past, and work out what to do in future instead.

So that’s our intention – to build on the broad support and huge engagement we received for this year’s influential women list to identify some specific ideas that might, hopefully, finally, make a difference if employers and government take action.

Please get in touch if you have ideas. There is still a lot to do, but wouldn’t it be great to be able to report substantial progress when we convene again in 2016 to celebrate the vital role of diversity in UK IT.