Dumping discrimination: Equality, Diversity & Inclusion are still an afterthought
By Sheila Flavell, CBE, Chief Operating Officer of FDM Group
1 in 4 employees feel held back in their careers due to discrimination. Bias and stereotypes are prevailing issues in the workplace as evidenced by these statistics and act as barriers to those looking to enter sectors like tech. More must be done to address this pressing issue.
The UK’s digital skills gap impedes economic growth and stability. So, it’s concerning that so many people report discrimination significantly impacting their careers, despite numerous unfilled job vacancies.
In fact, 27 per cent of individuals agree equality, diversity and inclusion are considered an average priority within their organisation painting a worrying picture about how management is hiring, training and supporting their staff.
The technology industry offers huge potential as emerging technologies such as AI develop, but a dearth of a skilled workforce may lead to missed opportunities. Technology not only offers the chance for the UK to take centre stage as a global superpower, but also provides the opportunity to increase job prospects, enhance roles, boost creativity and promote innovation.
To harness this potential, there needs to be a collective effort from government, businesses, and leaders to prioritise equality, diversity, and inclusion. Addressing biases and stereotypes in processes must be a proactive focus, not an afterthought, to ensure timely and effective action.
Bias & stereotypes
Different groups face different barriers in the workplace. For example, 72 per cent of women in tech say they have experienced sexism at work. This can include being paid less than their male counterparts, having their skill or ability doubted or simply being made to feel marginalised.
When people choose their career path or even decide on a career change, industries that display a high association with underrepresentation and stereotypical views can be unappealing for those outside the ‘traditional’ employee bracket.
Despite possessing relevant skills, individuals interested in industries like tech may find job prospects daunting due to common stereotypes, a fear of inadequate support, and a lack of relatable role models.
In fact, research shows that a fifth of men working in tech roles believe that women are naturally less suited to the industry, evidencing how stereotypical views are still alarmingly high within the sector.
Women hold equal skill and aptitude to traditionally chosen candidates and have the capability to lead successful careers in technology. The challenge remains: Promoting equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace to bring in and retain new talent that the industry so desperately needs.
The skills gap
The technology industry is facing a very serious skills shortage as businesses struggle to hire and retain a skilled workforce. There is an increasingly desperate need to attract and develop talent in order to harness the opportunities of the tech sector as the UK attempts to recover from years of economic turbulence.
For this to be achievable, businesses and leaders must work on breaking down outdated views while prioritising workplace initiatives that promote equality and diversity and building a culture that is based on inclusivity.
Businesses should offer purposely designed training programmes targeted at groups of individuals who struggle to either enter the technology industry or perhaps lack support from relatable peers.
In addition to gender and race discrimination, age discrimination is also prevalent, and businesses should implement schemes facilitating the reintegration of experienced individuals into the workforce. These career returners often possess valuable skills and experience that can be refreshed, emphasising the need for an inclusive approach to support their re-entry.
Discrimination is a complex and multifaceted issue. Effective solutions to address it involve varied training programmes that include skills training, coaching, mentoring, and the provision of flexible working arrangements to help individuals balance their professional and personal commitments.
Mentoring schemes can also help to promote a collaborative culture, offering opportunities for employees to engage with one another. For example, young employees may have stronger digital skills than a returner re-joining the industry whose strengths lie in stakeholder management. Building a culture based upon shared learning and teamwork will foster an environment where equality, diversity and inclusion is built-in from the bottom up.
For the UK to excel as a global tech leader, it must eliminate outdated stereotypes and biases, prioritising representation. An inclusive and representative culture will welcome individuals from all groups, fostering a diverse, technologically skilled workforce that drives innovation, creativity, and collaboration. This approach enables the UK to harness technology’s potential, businesses to access skilled workers, and the economy to stabilise and grow.