Diversity: How do we drive change in tech and digital sectors?

On appointment as chair of the Diversity Council for BIMA my immediate question was – what is our strategy to drive positive change in the digital and technology industry? After much reflection we realised the data was simply not there to enable an answer. Stack Overflow and the BCS Diversity in IT Report1 have both shone some light on the diversity of the industry, however, the barriers individuals in the industry experience remain unclear.

Put simply – how can we drive strategies for change if we don’t know what needs to change nor why and how.

Our answer was to commission a piece of research, the first of its kind, to deep dive into how the industry, especially marginalised groups, were experiencing the industry. What were their barriers to success? What hidden opportunities might we be missing? Importantly we wanted this research to move beyond the confines of gender and ethnicity and embrace everyone including the neurodivergent, the disabled and those who may have poor mental health.

We have uncovered far more than we expected and thank everyone who took part so honestly to share their experiences, as well as all of our supporting partners and contributors who made this report a reality.

We have found out that mental health, stress and anxiety are challenges within the industry and for marginalised groups, such as the neurodiverse, the figures are deeply upsetting with incidences of anxiety and depression appearing much higher at 84%. We have also discovered that 40% of Afro-Caribbean and those of mixed heritage, 31% of Asian and South East Asian and 35% of women have reported experiencing discrimination. Whilst we make efforts to bring people from diverse backgrounds into the industry, we are also driving them away.

There are also positive shoots for us to dwell on. These suggest that a renewed focus on enabling individuals to transfer into tech at later stages in life would have a significant impact on the diversity of the industry. And that education and socio- economic background are less likely to be limiters to entry.

These insights compel us to action and for the first time provide a clear sign-post on what to do next. Don’t read this report and put it to one side in the pile marked tomorrow. Instead read this report, look deep into yourself and commit to at least one change to enable this wonderful industry to flourish.

And do not make this change alone. If you or your team don’t have lived experience of the barrier you wish to tackle, work with an organisation, community and employees who do. We need to both make the industry inclusive and deliver this change respectfully and inclusively too.

Nadya Powell is chair of the BIMA Diversity and Inclusion Council and was writing to introduce the BIMA Tech Inclusion & Diversity Report which has, among other findings, reported that over a quarter of tech professionals have suffered a mental health issue.

Read the full report here.