A lack of diversity in tech is fuelling the IT skills shortage

Improving levels of diversity in tech is not just the right thing to do, but it is important for businesses that want to prioritise innovation and overcome the skills crisis.

From a business perspective, having the most diverse workforce possible is important for generating new ideas, while also catering for an increasingly diverse customer base.

Information Age is engaged in a continuing initiative to bridge the gender gap in tech — the Women in IT Awards Series — but a lack of diversity extends beyond this, to; race, age, ethnicity, sex and background.

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Bridge the diversity gap and bridge the skills gap

New research from the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF) has revealed that the skills challenge is going to increase over the next three years for tech businesses.

The CIF research report found that 52% of UK tech companies lack IT skills in at least one area of their business. And, half of respondents expected to face a skills gap within three years, more than double the current figure.

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There is a clear think between this growing skills gap and a lack of diversity in the tech industry or IT department — they are part of the same issue, but are consistently overlooked by tech business leaders.

Commenting on these findings, the chief operations officer of Memset, Annalisa O’Rourke, said:

“The latest research from CIF shows that the skills challenge is not going away and in fact is only going to become more acute in the years ahead. We read a lot about the need to up-skill existing workers and to train the next generation, but what is often less talked about is the need to expand the gene pool of potential recruits. For example, at present only a fraction of the UK’s female workforce operates in IT, and this is a massive constraint on the potential numbers of people who could be qualified to work in the sector. We have a big cultural job to do.”

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Diversity in tech: how to do it

Companies can put a range of measures in place in their hiring and retention strategies to support diverse employment.

Some key steps include:

• Making the selection criteria and hiring processes transparent, and broadening hiring decisions through the company to encourage a diversity of views.
• Never using quotas, which only serve to alienate and categorise employees.
• Avoiding language traditionally associated with masculinity (dominant, challenging, aggressive) in applications and business conversations that can discourage women and LGBTQ+ candidates.
• Not limiting the definition of diversity and constantly being open and inclusive to new ways of thinking, organising and problem solving.

“IT businesses of all sizes need to take a serious look at the type of culture they create,” continues O’Rourke. “There is no silver bullet and even if we make our businesses more open and inclusive, it will take time for more young women and other groups to come up through the education system. However, creating an inclusive culture means that you as an IT business are playing your part in addressing the ongoing skills challenge that we all face.”

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is the editor for Information Age. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and cyber security.