London Tech Week, Day One: Diversity under the spotlight
There is no denying that UK tech is experiencing a golden age. As London Tech Week kicks off today with events across the capital, we have a great deal to celebrate.
Figures today from the UK’s Digital Economy Council show that investment in UK startups is set to break records by the end of this year, with the UK outstripping China in terms of startup investment during the first half of 2022.
This is strengthening London’s status as an international centre for tech and innovation.
Despite the enormous economic burden brought by the pandemic, and the years of uncertainty our ecosystem had to navigate as we secured a deal with the EU, time and time again, tech companies have shown resilience and adaptability.
As we celebrate the successes of our industry we must remain committed to one of our key ambitions of London Tech Week: improving diversity.
The industry is now receiving the recognition it deserves from government. This morning, we had both the Chancellor and Secretary for DCMS join us at Global Leaders Innovation Summit.
It’s great to see such strong levels of government engagement with our sector. As all indicators point to progress, this is the time to turn the tide on the persistent and crippling lack of diversity in the industry which remains so stubbornly unchanged year-on-year.
The industry demographic is still 80 per cent white male. This truth is embarrassing – but we need to be candid about the issue to set the wheels of change in motion.
With Brexit limiting access to European talent, vacancies remaining unfilled due to a lack of workers with digital skills and outdated recruitment strategies failing to engage with under-represented communities, good intentions to create more diverse and inclusive tech companies are not converting into real change and action.
We need to be asking the tough questions – how can we stop leaving women out of the industry? How do we make sure we provide equal opportunity to those with mental or physical disabilities? How do we create an environment that nurtures difference rather than deflects it?
We have over 100,000 tech vacancies that we need to fill – and this must be done with inclusivity at the heart of the recruitment drive.
To fill these gaps, we must do more to tap into talent in communities underrepresented in our sector. This requires a dual approach – opening opportunities up both to those from abroad and in inner city areas like Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Newham where London’s tech industry has grown and flourished.
These boroughs are made up of significant numbers of people from black and minority ethnic heritage. Yet as long as only 2 per cent of IT specialists in the UK continue to be from black backgrounds, so too will our industry continue to miss out on swathes of potential talent to drive it forward and continue innovating.
We need this week to be the pivotal moment when government and industry alike take our diversity crisis seriously.
We have a unique opportunity this afternoon to kickstart the conversation with government, as we host the Access for Tech roundtable with DCMS – and were delighted that Secretary Nadine Dorries was able to join us as host. We discuss practical solutions organisations can put in place that will drive the diversity and inclusion agenda forward and deliver tangible change.
For an industry that is a picture of prosperity there’s really no excuse for the poor diversity status to continue. We need to bring everyone along on the growth journey and unlock the full potential of the tech industry.