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Diversity in Tech: why it's more than a tickbox

Diversity in tech is something that we all desperately need more of. At the moment tech is largely dominated by white men. Women are drastically underrepresented and BAME women are the least represented of any group. Increasing diversity is not about being politically correct or box ticking. There is a genuine and urgent need to increase diversity. Here are four reasons why diversity in tech is essential: 

1. Technologists build the future

Diversity in tech. If the future is built only by white men it will not serve the world. text on blue and purple background

If the future is built only by white men, it will not serve the world. If the future is built only by young black women, it will not serve the world. Any one group dominating the architecture of the future is bad for the world. Tech is taking over every aspect of our lives. The price you pay for your car insurance - that is decided on by an algorithm. The diagnosis of many cancers is now becoming reliant on tech. The adverts we are shown, the films that are suggested to us on Netflix, the way we shop, the price we pay for clothes - all of these things are affected or controlled by tech.

If tech is designed only by one group of people then it does not work for everyone. Ever noticed mobile phones are too big for the female hand? Did you know that in a car accident women are 47% more likely to be seriously injured? Why? Because seatbelts are tested with male dummies. A lack of diversity in tech is literally hurting us. We need to change it. 

We need the people designing and building tech systems - the systems that control our lives - to be a diverse mix of people so that the tech they build represents all of us and works for all of us.

2. Artificial intelligence and unconscious bias 

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We will be writing more about this soon. The basic point is that artificial intelligence is programmed using data sets that have been designed, collected and input by humans. AI doesn’t exist on its own - it is created and controlled by humans. If the humans who create it are biased, or the data it uses has been collected in a biased way, then the AI is starting from a place of bias. As the AI learns and develops, it will reinforce that bias. 

Think of stop and search statistics as an example. If the police conduct stop and search checks only in areas of London that are populated predominantly by BAME communities, then the data will show that young men from BAME backgrounds are more likely to commit crime than young white men. If the police go to predominantly white areas to conduct stop and search then the data will show that young white men are more likely to commit crime. If stop and search was conducted only on men or only on women, then the data would show that only men or only women commit crime. 

AI is only as good as the data collected and input. And the data collected and input is only as good as the humans doing it. 

There are some methods being researched to try to reduce unconscious bias. But we desperately need more people from underrepresented groups to get into tech. We need a balance of people, skills and life experiences creating our futures. The systems that we are building now will determine our future for decades and the technologies we are building now will determine our future for centuries.

3. We need to close the tech skills gap

Diversity in tech to close the skills gap interview

As digital transformation becomes a necessity rather than a competitive advantage, the demand for tech skills is spiralling. Businesses are struggling to recruit and innovation is being hampered as a result. Tech skills are now essential, and anyone who doesn’t have them is about to be left behind. Tech provides high quality, well paid jobs that are often flexible and offer remote working. The easiest and fastest way to close the skills gap is to encourage more people into tech. By increasing diversity in tech we can instantly access large numbers of potential tech workers. Women are the most obvious and probably the largest cohort. Less than 5% of tech leaders are women. By bringing a wider variety of people into the world of tech, we help to close the tech skills gap. 

4. More diverse companies are more successful 

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If all that wasn’t enough to persuade you….money talks. And diversity brings in more money. More diverse businesses routinely outperform their less diverse counterparts. More diverse businesses have an advantage - they can understand more view points. They can design their products better (like the phone being too big for the female hand). They can market better. They are therefore more successful. If you want your business to be successful, or your team, you need to be thinking about diversity. At the moment it is very challenging to build diverse tech teams, but by talking about it and reaching out to underrepresented groups we can start to change that. 

Diversity in tech

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Tech needs you. We need you. If you have been trying to start a tech career, or you just don’t know where to start - apply for our free LAUNCHPAD programme

Why isn't there diversity in tech? 

Tech jobs are highly paid and many offer excellent working conditions, so why aren't people rushing to them in their droves? The truth is, there are a lot of myths around tech that create barriers and put people off. Read more about some of the most common barriers to a tech career in our blog article.

If you are a business feeling the need to utilise tech more effectively, contact us to see how we can help. We are digital growth consultants and tech experts. Whether you need software building or improving, or want to improve your team dynamic, we can help. Contact us now.

If you think we missed something, let us know in the comments below.

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