In the last decade, London’s tech ecosystem has grown to encompass a diverse set of verticals: from AI, to fintech, climate tech and crypto. However, when it comes to improving the diversity of the people who make up the capital’s tech industry, progress has been slower.
While many UK tech companies publicly say diversity is important to them, the sixth annual Diversity in Tech report from Tech Talent Charter found only 28 per cent of the country’s tech workers are gender minorities and only 35 per cent are from minority ethnic backgrounds. Meanwhile, just 27 per cent of UK equity deals went to startups with at least one female founder in 2022.
As well as the social responsibility and ethical imperative for the industry to be accessible for all, there’s a business case here too. Companies who placed in the top quartile of gender diversity on executive teams were 25 per cent more likely to experience above-average profitability than those in the lowest quartile, according to a 2019 analysis by McKinsey.
Against this backdrop, the question of how the UK tech scene can become more representative over the next decade has emerged as one of the key discussion points at this year’s London Tech Week.
Despite pledges to create diverse workforces and promote inclusivity, unconscious bias remains a significant problem. From the recruitment process to early stage funding rounds, individuals from underrepresented backgrounds are often faced with panels of primarily white and male decision-makers.
Those who succeed despite these hurdles may enter environments where they feel ostracised or they cannot be their authentic selves. A 2016 report by Stanford University found that 66 per cent of women in Silicon Valley felt their gender excluded them from social or networking activities.
The advocacy group GTA Black Women in Tech has been inspiring radical change in this area, not only by fighting structural bias, but also through building a strong community of black female tech leaders who inspire and support each other. With networking events, masterclasses and partnerships, GTA empowers black women who have long been underrepresented in the tech sector. It will take more of these kinds of initiatives to create a diverse ecosystem that makes the most of the UK’s existing strengths in technology.
When talking about the importance of diversity and inclusion in tech, people with disabilities are often overlooked, despite being extremely underrepresented in the industry. From unconscious bias in recruitment to accessibility barriers and a lack of accommodations in the workplace, there are many hurdles preventing their success in the tech industry.
This needs to change. Making UK tech more accessible will form an important part of any attempt to solve the UK’s tech skills crisis, which is slowing down industry growth. From an ethical standpoint, rapid advancements in emerging technologies such as AI make this a critical time to build diverse teams capable of building products that serve the interests of wider society, rather than just particular groups.
The TLA working Group Tech for Disability is championing diversity by bridging the disabled community and the tech industry. Today at London Tech Week, the group hosted a discussion about the role disabled people can play in shaping generative AI. It will be vital that tech leaders and companies around the world join these types of discussions to make technology more accessible for all.
The lack of diversity in the UK tech ecosystem is a complex problem to which there is no easy solution. But after years of discussing where the tech industry is falling short, we cannot afford further inaction. Achieving gender parity in tech could add £2.6bn to the UK economy and making the industry more accessible to those living with a disability, members of the LGBTQ+ community, women and ethnic minorities must be a social imperative.
If the UK plans to further its position as a leading hub for tech innovation, the city must do more to create inclusive spaces where diverse talent can flourish, encourage open corporate cultures and champion the diversity cause through governmental initiatives and funding.