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London's tech firms are still dragging their feet on diversity

Rebecca Smith
Nearly 1,000 of London's 40,000 tech firms have all male staff
Nearly 1,000 of London's 40,000 tech firms have all male staff (Source: Getty)

London’s tech firms have work to do on improve diversity within their companies, but nearly half (46 per cent) don’t feel a diverse workforce improves a company’s growth.

Of the 40,000 London tech companies, nearly 1,000 have entirely male staff, according to a new report from Tech London Advocates, a network of over 3,600 tech experts in the capital.

The research says that the industry still isn’t doing enough to improve the matter even though 60 per cent of Advocates recognised that the tech sector didn’t represent London’s wider diversity.

It said: “Surveys and stats are revealing the digital community’s veneer of inclusivity and exposing its tech team sheets for what they are: male, pale and socio-economically stale.”

"Many entrepreneurs and business owners are aware that diversity helps business growth, but the challenge lies in bridging the gap between intention and implementation," Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates, told City A.M.

"Of all the tech companies I have spoken to, diversity simply gets forgotten amidst the pressures of running fast-growth businesses. This subconscious bias towards the familiar has created a lack of diversity that threatens to undermine the growth of the tech sector and remains the industry’s shameful secret."

Tech London Advocates founder Russ Shaw
Tech London Advocates founder Russ Shaw

He added: "There are many ways tech companies can improve diversity but it has to start at the top. Senior leaders need to create an environment where every employee is comfortable being themselves at work. Ultimately, this is not about quotas or red tape, but embracing diversity of thought. London tech complains about a shortage of talent but the city offers untapped potential in minority groups currently underrepresented."

The research also noted how important the capital was as an “international city”, attractive to talent and investors from overseas because of the cultural diversity on offer.

New home secretary Amber Rudd announced plans to tighten visa rules for workers who come to the UK from outside the EU at the Conservative Part Conference on Tuesday. UK firms to recruit from overseas. The UK tech scene has already spoken out against the plans and warned they could be hugely damaging for the UK.

Read more: Rudd signals retreat on tough migration plans

Tech London Advocates says the importance of safeguarding the capital’s international future is particularly important – migrant entrepreneurs are behind one in seven of all UK firms and London benefits disproportionately from them. It has 20 times the number of migrant-led businesses than the second most popular location in Birmingham.

“Dealing with a storm it neither predicted nor produced, London’s future as a tech hub rests on the digital community’s ability to establish relationships with international markets and continue to attract the best of European and global talent,” the report said.