Sexism in the UK tech sector is rife and shows no sign of abating

A woman sitting alone at her desk in a tech startup office space with men in the background
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Nearly a quarter of women in tech have reported sexism in the workplace, according to new research, with male employees believing women “aren’t suited” to the sector. 

Research from the Fawcett Society points to a toxic sexist culture at play across the industry, with women feeling marginalized, targeted with offensive ‘banter’, and experiencing lower pay rates. 

Nearly three-quarters (70%) of women in tech reported being paid less than their male colleagues, the study found, with 22% revealing sexism was presented as harmless banter. 

Similarly, one-in-five respondents said their skills and abilities had been questioned by male colleagues. 

When questioned, a concerning portion of male tech workers were noticeably less keen on a gender-balanced workforce, with 19% stating they believed women are naturally less suited to working in the tech sector.

This pervasive sexist culture across the industry is creating a sense of disillusion among female tech workers, the report noted. Nearly half of women said they think about leaving their role at least once a week due to the toxic culture they are faced with. 

"It's unacceptable that so many women are being locked out of tech because damaging and plain wrong sexist ideas are thriving in a predominantly male workforce," said Jemima Olchawski, chief executive of the Fawcett Society. 

"It's really no surprise that four in ten women consider leaving their role when toxic 'tech bro' cultures are so widespread, and women are diminished by male colleagues."

Minorities report racism and sexism in the UK tech sector

The situation is even worse for black and minority women, with almost three-in-four having experienced racism at work. Around one-third said they'd been assumed by colleagues to “not hold a technical role”.

They also reported biased and unfair recruitment practices, and said they were less likely to feel comfortable in their workplace.

The perception that the tech industry is sexist also exists more widely, with more than a quarter of women working outside the sector stating it was more sexist than others.

"It makes no sense that in the midst of a skills shortage so many capable and talented women are either locked out of the sector or choosing to leave," says Olchawski. 


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"All of this means tech firms are missing out on a wealth of talent, and both women and our economy are being held back."

The Fawcett Society report called for businesses to reduce bias during application processes by promoting reasonable flexible work options by default, banning salary history questions, using gender-neutral language, and setting targets to improve the representation of women and underrepresented groups.

Organizations should also accelerate plans to broaden access to tech, promote an inclusive social culture, and offer equitable training, pay and progression, the report said. 

The situation is not improving

Despite years of campaigning and efforts to improve diversity in the tech sector, the situation doesn't appear to be improving, the report claimed. 

Women still feel marginalized and underrepresented in the industry, it added. 

According to figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the number of women working in the UK tech sector fell by 3,000 in the second quarter in a tech sector that overall expanded by 85,000 to 1.73 million.

Meanwhile, TechUK revealed only a quarter of UK tech workers belong to ethnic minority groups - while for senior roles that figure falls to 13%.

"We must do better as businesses at creating an inclusive and diverse environment that shatters these stereotypes," says Nisha Marwaha, director of people relations and DE&I at Virgin Media O2. 

"Otherwise, at a time when the tech sector is hit with skill shortages, we'll miss out on a wealth of top talent." 

Emma Woollacott

Emma Woollacott is a freelance journalist writing for publications including the BBC, Private Eye, Forbes, Raconteur and specialist technology titles.