'Sobering' diversity figures in IT must improve, says BCS

The extent of IT's diversity issues has been laid bare by BCS, the chartered institute for IT, in a report detailing the lack of gender and ethnic variety in tech and the corresponding low pay some minorities earn.

Just 17% of IT specialists in 2016 were women, BCS's Diversity in IT 2017 report, published last week, found. The percentage of women in IT roles didn't rise above 20% in any UK region, according to the report's analysis of ONS Quarterly Labour Force Survey data.

Only 10% of women in tech worked as IT directors, the organisation's analysis found, with the percentage falling to 9% for IT engineering roles. The highest proportion of female workers, at 25%, was found in tech project and programme manager roles.

Women earned on average 11% less than their male counterparts in tech roles over 2016, the report found, taking home 660 a week compared to 780.

Prospects for ethnic minorities and older workers looked little better, with the report finding that disabled IT workers made up 8% of IT roles, compared to 12% of UK jobs overall.

Non-white workers filled 17% of IT positions, compared to 12% overall, but while they filled almost one-third of IT roles in London, that fell to 8% in Yorkshire/Humberside.

Non-white IT workers were more than twice as likely to be in part-time employment compared to white employees, but had higher wages than white IT staff, at an average 850 per week.

Disabled IT workers earned 660 per week, compared to the 780 average for non-disabled IT workers.

Dr Sue Black OBE, who founded BCSWomen at the turn of the century, said: "You could say that this report paints a dismal picture in terms of diversity and women in tech, we are nowhere near 50/50 male to female in the industry.

"But I believe that we are at a tipping point of a revolution in technology and also in awareness of the importance of diversity. I've seen massive change over the last few years in attitudes towards diversity in tech.

"From being asked when setting up BCSWomen in 2001: 'Why are you ghettoising yourself?' I now regularly get asked: 'How can we encourage more women to work in our tech department?'"

The report didn't make any recommendations, but admitted that "whatever actions that have been taken so far to instigate change, simply aren't having the marked and imperative change that we need".

It said that minorities must make the case for change to the men running most organisations, from recruiting to recognising and promoting non-white, non-male staff.

"Whichever way we look at it, these figures make for sobering and depressing reading," wrote Deloitte's public sector lead and vice-chair, Rebecca George OBE, whi is also the VP of BCS's organisation and employers board.

She added: "BCS is calling for each and every one of us to make a simple pledge to take one action to make that difference.

"Treating everyone with respect and improving diversity in our sector is surely a key element of making IT good for society. In 2017 it seems incredible that this is still an issue to be tackled, but it is, and that's why everyone has to realise that they have a responsibility in changing this - for the better."