According to the BIMA Tech Inclusion & Diversity Report, workers in UK tech are five-times more depressed than the national average and marginal groups are facing significant levels of discrimination, based on gender, ethnicity, age and neurodivergence.
The report identifies the need for urgent improvement around workplace mental health and discrimination, as well as highlighting untapped opportunities for employee talent and development that will help the UK’s booming digital economy grow.
Stress, anxiety and depression
At 66%, employees in the tech sector are as stressed as those working in the NHS. While 13% of workers reported symptoms ranging from headaches, anxiety attacks, sleeplessness, indigestion and tiredness, as such respondents said they are often unable to work to their best abilities.
Women are more likely to be affected by anxiety and depression than their male counterparts, 21% vs 16% for men, while those with neurodivergent conditions, such as dyslexia or Aspergers were more likely to be impacted by poor mental health, 84% vs 49% for neurotypical workers.
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The report also found that bisexuals and people who define their own sexuality suffer from anxiety and depression the most.
“The results of this survey should be taken very seriously. Our bodies are designed to be under stress for only very short periods of time. Prolonged stress, such as work stress, is highly correlated with mental illness such as anxiety and depression, as well as some forms of cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease,” said Matt Janes, Neuroscience, Functional Medicine & Mental Health Practitioner. “Whilst the results are worrying, the good news is that there are ways to help people better cope with stress. There are proven strategies which help people adapt to work stress, so that they can develop resilience to illness and at the same time, become more productive.”
While the tech sector appears to be progressive, bias is pervasive, with 22% of respondents feeling their career progression has been discriminated against in some way. This number was higher for women, of whom 35% believe their gender has negatively affected their career progression.
Ethnicity plays a big part too: 31% of Asian and South East Asian and 40% of Afro-Caribbean and mixed heritage people say they have experienced negative discrimination as a result of their ethnicity — 9% of white people said they have experienced discrimination because of their ethnicity.
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Furthermore, ageism is still rampant, 34% of those aged 55-64 say they feel their age has negatively affected their career progression, a figure significantly (9% or more) higher than any other age group. While 12% of respondents with a physical condition feel discriminated against – 22% for those with a mental health condition and 24% for neurodivergents.
“Modern businesses need policies and processes to support all aspects of discrimination, bullying and harassment. But perhaps more importantly, we also need to create cultures where the subtle gender biases no longer go unchecked,” said Suzy Levy, Managing Director, The Red Plate. “If the workplace is architected for only one type of person to succeed, the masculine, self-assured, always-on person, for example, we will continue to see very little change in the diversity of our senior teams. It will also limit our ability to bring diversity of thought and innovation to our clients.”
Untapped opportunities for talent and development
On the plus side, the tech sector appears to be open to people from diverse educational backgrounds, which suggests a career in tech isn’t exclusively for a privileged few.
A fifth of respondents are from C2DE backgrounds (the three lowest socio-economic groups) higher than the 17% noted in the Advertising Diversity Taskforce Survey.
However, while only 11% of respondents went to fee-paying schools, they account for 20% of leadership roles. That’s higher than the national average but lower than many comparable industries.
One in five people reported having no previous tech experience and 23% say they are self-taught demonstrates the level of opportunity within the industry.
According to the research, the industry should offer more to parents, 36% of parents surveyed did not return to their current company after maternity/ paternity leave. It is not clear how many parents decided not to return to any form of work, but the figure does suggest that balancing the requirements of parenthood with the demands of work is a challenge that workplaces need to help address.