Tech sector gender gap could take “nearly 300 years” to close without intervention

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Nearly 300 years could pass before women account for an equal share of the tech sector workforce if current trends continue, according to new research from BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT. 

Despite making nominal gains in improving workforce diversity in recent years, based on current rates, the UK tech industry could take 283 years to reach an equal gender ratio.

BCS said this underlines the need for industry to take drastic action to tackle the long-standing gender gap.

The warning follows the publication of BCS’ annual Diversity Report, which found that between 2018 and 2021, the proportion of female tech workers in the UK increased from 16% to 20%.

While this marked a “modest improvement”, analysis from the institute found that efforts to bolster female representation in the sector stalled in 2022, with the percentage of women in the sector remaining the same.

Julia Adamson, MBE, MD for education and public benefit at BCS, warned the UK’s tech industry is disregarding a lucrative talent pool by failing to improve gender diversity.

“More women and girls need the opportunity to take up great careers in the tech industry that’s shaping the world,” she said. “A massive pool of talent and creativity is being overlooked when it could benefit employers and the economy.

"Having greater diversity means that what is produced is more relevant to, and representative of, society at large.”

Adamson said that, given current technology trends with the emergence of generative AI, the importance of improving diversity within the sector has never been greater.

Efforts to address the tech industry gender gap have been a key recurring topic in recent years, with industry stakeholders and lawmakers alike collaborating to tackle the issue - which often starts at school level.

Research shows that 94% of girls and 79% of boys drop computing at age 14, which Adamson said is a “huge alarm bell” that cannot be ignored.

“The subject should have a broader digital curriculum that is relevant to all young people,” she said.

Last week, the House of Lords backed calls for the introduction of new UK computing qualifications for high school students. The new qualifications would recognize “higher-level technical knowledge and skills” that would have equal value to existing computer science GCSEs.

Workplace culture could be harming tech sector gender gap

Current trends on returning to the office could be having a negative impact on improving gender diversity efforts, according to BCS. 

Jo Stansfield, co-chair of BCS Women and an inclusivity expert said the industry witnessed an influx of women due to the flexibility afforded by remote working practices.

With many organizations implementing a return to office mandate, or adopting at least hybrid working practices, this could force some women to prioritize personal and family responsibilities over career aspirations.


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“I believe more women joined the tech workforce during the pandemic because of increased flexibility, such as working from home,” she said.

"This meant they could balance careers with other responsibilities, such as caring for children or elderly relatives – tasks which still fall disproportionately on women.”

Stansfield said organizations should place a stronger focus on developing “inclusive workplace policies and practices” which take these factors into account to retain female workers.

Women of color are still seriously underrepresented

For women of color in the UK tech industry, the situation is even more concerning. The underrepresentation of black women remained unchanged, according to the latest BCS data. 

A previous study by the institute found that women of color experience significant barriers in the UK tech industry, with workplace trends putting many off from pursuing careers.

These barriers included a lack of flexible working options, career development support, ‘micro-aggressions’ in the workplace, and a toxic ‘tech bro’ culture in some organizations.

Nicola Martin, a BCS and Women’s Engineering Fellow said organizations are once again overlooking a highly valuable source of talent to help alleviate current skills shortages.

“We need more black women coming into the industry and, more importantly, wanting to stay,” she said. “There needs to be a coming together of all the different pressure groups in this area to amplify the issues and work with organizations to make active change."

Ross Kelly
News and Analysis Editor

Ross Kelly is ITPro's News & Analysis Editor, responsible for leading the brand's news output and in-depth reporting on the latest stories from across the business technology landscape. Ross was previously a Staff Writer, during which time he developed a keen interest in cyber security, business leadership, and emerging technologies.

He graduated from Edinburgh Napier University in 2016 with a BA (Hons) in Journalism, and joined ITPro in 2022 after four years working in technology conference research.

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