Addressing the 1% problem in Tech

Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) within the Tech sector has been moving at an extremely slow pace for many years. As found by the Kapor Center, between 2014 and 2020, Black representation in senior roles within tech grew by only 1 per cent, a worrying figure. As we travel further down the career ladder, this percentage barely improves, with Black people making up just 3 per cent of the UK Tech workforce overall.

Writing for Tech Crunch, Craig Lewis, Founder and CEO of Gig Wage, discussed the barriers Black founders face in the US business world. He states, “I’m a Black man in America — that’s hard. Black founders, and uniquely Black founders in tech, are facing insurmountable odds.” Black founders in Tech receive less than 1 per cent of venture capital in the sector, putting them at a huge disadvantage and creating a ‘double-glazed’ glass ceiling which, for so many, feels impossible to break through.

What does this mean for the industry?

Technology is everywhere. According to a recent poll, the average adult will spend 34 years of their life looking at screens, absorbing information created by algorithms and consistently using AI – perhaps without even realising. If the people ‘behind the screen’ who create the apps, the algorithms, and the code that we absorb are not representative of society, then we are at risk of developing biases on a huge scale that can go unchecked.  

This is not new and there have already been global incidents of Black people being affected by racial bias within AI and Technological systems. For example, in healthcare systems, thousands of Black people in the US were less likely to be referred for medical help in comparison to their White counterparts due to biased algorithms. Finance is another key example. Due to bias, 80 per cent of Black applicants seeking a loan for a mortgage are more likely to be rejected than those who are white.

So, what can be done?

Create safe, inclusive spaces

Firstly, more frank conversations about race and the specific needs of and barriers faced by Black talent need to happen without fear. According to research by the Tech Talent Charter, 22 per cent of workers are hesitant to bring up diversity issues in the workplace. This increases by 10 per cent for ethnic minorities. Employers must work hard to change this rhetoric and create safe spaces for employees to express their concerns. Where issues are raised, action must be taken efficiently and without hesitation. D&I training can be a brilliant place to start.

Our sister company, INvolve, works closely with businesses of all shapes and sizes to create, build and implement bespoke training workshops focusing on diversity, inclusion, allyship and advocacy. This can be done as a standalone program which is revisited regularly or alongside other resources and inclusion initiatives which you may be undertaking as part of your D&I efforts.

Hire inclusively

University is the most likely place for employers to search for STEM graduates every year, however this method alone can lead to homogeneity and a lack of diversity. This can then trickles into the recruitment pipeline and creates a never-ending cycle of bias and underrepresentation.

It needn’t be this way, especially in the current time where so many other routes into STEM have become available to the younger generation and the talent pool has grown much wider. Ensure that you take your job search far and wide, exploring not only universities but colleges, schools, and recruitment sites too. This will ensure you are reaching a wide range of candidates, providing equal opportunity to all. If this is something you’re unsure of how to approach, our specialist recruitment consultants here at Audeliss can provide practical advice and assistance to maximise this process.

Empower your Black talent

Another reason for stark underrepresentation of Black people in Tech is a lack of role models – especially during education. In the UK, during 2018/19, not even 1 per cent of university professors were Black, rising barely to 2 per cent of schoolteachers.

Without people who have had similar lived experiences to look up to, young Black talent is going to be put off entering the industry, and the cycle will perpetuate. Ensure you lift, empower, and showcase your talent and enable them to have the platform they need to make a difference to the next generation.