What are UK tech firms doing to foster BAME diversity?
Diversity might be relatively high on the agenda today, but the focus is often on gender. However, a wider sense of inclusivity is important with strong evidence that ethnic diversity at the top correlates with strong performance – so it’s hard to make a case against proactively pursuing diversity.
TechNation names diversity as a key challenge for the digital tech sector – and the organisation’s 2018 report found that 40% of those surveyed felt that ethnic diversity was low in their local tech ecosystem.
We look at what firms can do to improve BAME diversity within tech firms.
So what can firms do to make a difference?
“Role modelling is fundamental to ensuring equal opportunities and more inclusive cultures so we need anyone who proves ethnicity need not be a barrier to success to come forward to inspire the next generation of BAME leaders,” Suki Sandhu, CEO and founder of membership organisation OUTstanding, told GrowthBusiness.
Adrian Joseph, head of AI at EY financial services, was named the UK's most influential BAME tech leader by the Financial Times. Overseeing a wide range of responsibilities, he has managed to achieve a 50/50 gender balance in data analytics as well as a 50/50 BAME balance in financial recruiting. What’s more, in addition to having diversity sponsorship and leadership programmes, EY also has targets for BAME hires at varying levels of seniority across the business.
Support from the community also plays an important part. The recently launched OneTech initiative aims to champion 200 startups led by women and BAME individuals, with the objective of seeing at least 50 of them raise investment. The initiative’s organizers hope to double the number of female and BAME founders in Hackney, Newham and Tower Hamlets.
“These three boroughs are on the doorstep of London’s tech ecosystem, but many of these communities don’t have access to the opportunities that are literally on their doorstep,” Emma Obanye, Capital Enterprise’s head of delivery, told the Evening Standard.
TechNation stressed that the initiative wasn’t intended to create ‘ethnic minority-only’ businesses, however, but was “about tapping into pools of talent from underrepresented groups and supporting them to join already existing accelerators, pitch for funding and accelerate their growth”.
Actions to improving diversity
Goole.org, meanwhile, is the flagship sponsor of Colorintech, an organisation that seeks to connect individuals from BAME backgrounds with the UK’s leading tech firms. They advocate for organizations to:
Set aggressive targets for board recruitment of ethnic minority talent and link targets to senior management KPIs
Identify and personally develop internal ethnic minority talent through one-to-one mentoring and sponsorship
Work with third parties and recruitment agencies that have a track record for delivering diverse candidates
Publicise your business case for an ethnically diverse workforce both internally and externally
Appoint a board member to champion racial diversity.
Colorintech also calls for the government to set a target of 30% ethnic minority representation at board level for FTSE350 tech companies within the next five years. And there are signs that these considerations are moving into the mainstream – with anecdotal examples of major financial firms including diversity and inclusion as significant factors when evaluating agency services.
Colorintech also partnered with WeWork’s Flatiron School to provide a coding scholarship scheme – CodeHUE – with over £370,000 of training up for grabs. “You shouldn’t be the only person in a class that looks like you,” Flatiron School founder Avi Flombaum told the Evening Standard. “It has to be diverse so people feel comfortable and see themselves in the school.”
Looking ahead, there’s little doubt that British businesses have to work to understand the needs of their customers within a connected, global marketplace – and a growing range of voices will only add to the richness of the UK’s tech ecosystem.
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Empiric are committed to changing the gender and diversity imbalance within the technology sector. In addition to Next Tech Girls we proactively target skilled professionals from minority groups which in turn can help you meet your own diversity commitments. Our active investment within the tech community allows us to engage with specific talent pools and deliver a short list of relevant and diverse candidates.