Misunderstanding and underrepresentation blocking tech diversity

Career

Only a small amount of people believe the tech sector is representative of the UK, according to research by the Institute of Coding (IoC).

Asking more than 2,000 adults in the UK about tech and tech careers, with the help of TechUK, the IoC found only 21% of those asked think the technology industry reflects the diversity of the general public in the UK, and it has been said previously that not being able to see people like yourself may act as a deterrent for going into a particular career.

“Our poll shows that only a small percentage of the population – just one in five – believe tech to be representative of the whole population,” said Rachid Hourizi, director of the IoC.

“This stems in part from visibility – if more women saw the fantastic work that women in tech in the country, and globally, achieve, this could encourage more women to make their own career in the industry.”

A lack visible and accessible role models has been a commonly cited reason why many don’t choose technology careers – the lack of diversity in the sector breeds misconceptions about the type of people who work in the technology sector, leaving many ruling themselves out.

It has been noted previously that women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) are rarely featured as part of the school curriculum, so the IoC finding only 14% of people asked could name a female tech leader is not a big surprise.

Another barrier to entry into a technology career is a lack of understanding about what tech roles involve and what is needed to pursue one – just under 30% thought a degree-level qualification is necessary when going into a technology career.

Hourizi said: “The truth is, there is no ‘typical’ tech worker, and it’s a career that is open to everybody; there’s no reason why people from all backgrounds can’t forge a career in the industry, if that’s their passion point.”

While a degree may not be necessary for all tech roles, there is a significant digital skills gap already in the UK that has had an impact on tech hiring, and the IoC found only half of those asked are confident about their level of digital skills.

But many claimed they did not have the time or funds to work on furthering their digital skills, despite more than a quarter claiming to regret not choosing a digital career.

Some 16% of those asked said they are considering a career move this year, and almost 60% of people between the ages of 18 and 24 said technology would be a good industry to work in.

The IoC is trying to make digital skills more accessible by offering free courses in areas such as data and cyber, in the hope of helping people to develop their digital skills and possibly pursue a more digital career in the future.

“Along with our partners, we are working to nationally upskill our population, and help this country compete on the world stage as economies become increasingly digital-led,” said Hourizi. “Our polling shows us that the barriers that exist, such as time and expense, can be circumnavigated; the programmes that we offer are free, and flexible in terms of duration, allowing learners to improve their digital skills in a way that suits them.”

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