The Need for a Broader Approach to Diversity in the UK Tech Industry

Tech organizations in the UK should expand and re-evaluate their push toward improved diversity, according to Tracy Pound, MD of Maximity and member of the CompTIA Board of Directors.
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At the beginning of a new decade, CompTIA’s IT Industry Outlook 2020 sets out predictions for the tech industry and examines the current state of diversity in tech. In its most common conception, workplace diversity refers to having an employee population that reflects the general population—no preferential treatment or restrictive measure given on basis of gender, race, age or other factors. In 2020, we will see this conception broaden out to tackle the workforce gap caused by a lack of diversity in skills. Tracy Pound, MD of Maximity and member of the CompTIA Board of Directors, explained how organizations can and should expand and re-evaluate their push toward improved diversity, at this year’s UK Channel Community Meeting in Manchester.

According to Tracy, diversity “is not a point we can take off of the agenda” in 2020. The call for improved diversity will continue to pay dividends, even if fully diverse and inclusive environments still lie further in the future. To date, 20% of companies in the UK feel that there has been significant improvement in the diversity of the tech workforce in the past two years. Of course, the trend is heading in the right direction, but the initial chasm was so wide that it will take significant time and purposeful changes to close. The outlook is positive, though, with one in four companies in the UK pledging that fostering workforce diversity is a high priority in 2020.

Beyond Common Conceptions

The report found that in 2020, effort must be made to extend the scope on diversity issues, considering further issues such as diverse but equally important skillsets. As technology becomes more complex, a more diverse set of skills will be needed at all levels of the organization, starting with a basic understanding of each technology. In-demand skills are a major driver for future sentiment, but the reason skills are in such high demand is that there is such a wide variety today. As companies mature in their technology usage, this translates into more diverse demands in software development, cybersecurity, data and infrastructure.

But it isn’t just the demand for technically diverse skills that is growing—soft skills such as communication and teamwork are no longer reserved for those workers on higher up in the organisation, but now apply to entry-level employees and everyone in between. In 2020, we will see a diversification of the skills required for entry-level jobs, with more prioritization on soft skills before deep, technical skills are developed in specific areas.

Where Can Companies Start?

Technology allows us to work flexibly, and this year companies must embrace this to support a diverse workforce. Flexible work arrangements, including the physical environment, could create more opportunities and a more welcoming atmosphere, especially if organizations take a closer look at how their existing arrangements could unintentionally create barriers. Already, McKinsey has found that there was a 30% increase in women able to work from home compared to 2018, demonstrating an active shift towards more flexible working.

Expanding the scope of diversity issues means that the skills shortage can be reduced while the workforce becomes more diverse. For example, recruiting from training programmes that focus on underserved populations can also support an inclusive approach to recruitment while working to plug the skills gap. Furthermore, diversifying workforce planning by engaging lower management in the process can prove beneficial, as entry-level supervisors often know exactly what skills and diversity their teams currently lack and the characteristics that are likely to add value.

In 2020, the outlook for diversity in the IT industry in the UK is certainly positive. By including diverse skill sets into what it is to be diverse, the industry will find new ways of encouraging inclusivity, which in turn will help plug the skills gap. Tracy noted that, at the end of the day, “It’s all about attitude, people will achieve what they think they can, by putting roadblocks in or not.” So it’s down to individuals. CompTIA’s Industry Outlook 2020 sets an exciting precedent for what’s to come this year and gives inspiration to companies struggling with where to start in improving their push for improved diversity and inclusion.

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