'“Fluffy” pieces can be the make or break for a tech product.': A look at diversity in the tech industry
It was found in the Tech Nation 2021 report that the UK has a rapidly growing demand for tech positions, with an increase of 40% within the last two years.
As 3rd in the world for tech unicorns (behind only the US and China), the UK steams ahead of the rest of Europe and advertised, on average, 259% more unique tech roles per month in 2020 in comparison to other key European countries.
Despite this desperate clamour for people to fill roles, still there is a large gender and ethnicity gap within tech companies and an overwhelming lack of investment made in diverse startups. Out of every 100 people in the UK tech industry only 25 of those would be women.
Why is this a problem?
Lack of diversity behind the scenes not only hinders the efficacy of a product but also adds to the narrative that certain roles are unobtainable to particular groups of people. Without a diverse team you could be inadvertently saying to a diverse candidate that they do not belong in that space.
In a purely functional capacity, it is critical that tech companies have diversity in order to develop safer and more effective products that benefit a wider pool of people (if not everyone), not just one segment of society.
You may know that your business's products and services are used by many people, but did you know who it caters to the most?
Developers often take their own experience and perspective into account when building products, especially digital products. When problem-solving or finding a solution, the end user is often thought of through the lens of the creator. There is less scope in terms of ideas and methods if the team responsible for producing the product is made up of similar people, and as a result there is a greater risk of the final product having limitations. These could impact you financially, or impact the end user in a more serious capacity.
A recent example of the damage caused by lack of diversity in tech was highlighted in the documentary Coded Bias, which started streaming on Netflix on April 5, 2O21. Following on from the repercussions of MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini’s discovery that many facial recognition technologies cannot accurately type women’s faces or detect the faces of people with darker skin, the documentary explores how human error has been written into the algorithms that navigate our lives. Facial recognition software is one of those products that can have drastic implications if incorrect.
A move in the right direction is a silver lining
Alina Clough, Harvard graduate and UX Consultant currently supporting NASA shed some light on how the tech sector is improving as a space for women and how companies striving for diversity are reaping the benefits. She told us:
“I think a lot of traditionally “female” roles are finally coming into the spotlight in a great way. Product management, product marketing, and UX research—all extremely empathy-focused and management-oriented roles that have always had a lot of women—are beginning to go from low-level roles to more strategic parts of teams and companies.
“Companies are no longer just about tech working correctly and I think as the industry begins to realise that the “fluffy” pieces can be the make or break for a tech product, they’re starting to get away from the hyper masculine values in the industry and see why they need women in general.”
What can we do about it?
There is a clear benefit to employers, employees, and end users when diversity is welcomed within the technical field. Fresh ideas, perspectives, and workflows are brought to technology firms when the talent pool is widened.
From a societal standpoint there are initiatives to encourage those traditionally excluded from the tech sphere into the new workforce, but employers have a massive part to play.
Diverse hiring is easier than ever. The pandemic sped-up the process of remote, agile, and alternative working, which in turn showed the dexterity afforded by non-traditional working environments. Talent pools have widened and so has the possibility for inclusion- people with disabilities, people from remote areas, people from different backgrounds.
With a bigger pool to choose from, successful companies are the ones to take advantage of that. Recruitment outsourcing has allowed companies (even SMEs) the ability to curate their company culture, gain a wider reach, and find gold-standard candidates for roles.
Technology is limitless, so why would we limit ourselves when finding the people to create it?