BAME IT professionals are less likely to be in positions of responsibility than those of white ethnicity - despite on the whole being better qualified, a new study has found.
Only 9% of BAME IT specialists were directors and 32% of BAME workers described themselves as a manager or supervisor compared with 43% of white workers, research by BCS reveals. However, the overall percentage of BAME workers in IT is relatively high, according to the BCS’ 2020 Diversity Report, which analyses workforce trends using data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
BAME workers also have, on average, better qualifications, with almost nine in ten BAME IT specialists holding a Degree or HE level qualification (85%), compared with less than seven in ten (66%) of those from white ethnic groups, BCS concludes.
On the plus side, latest figures show there were 268,000 IT specialists in the UK from BAME, representing 18% of all IT specialists in the UK at that time - a notably higher level of representation than for BAME workers in the workforce as a whole which is 12%.
Moreover, the level of representation amongst IT specialists is slowly rising and has increased by two percentage points over the past five years compared with a rise of one percentage point for the UK workforce as a whole.
Looking in more detail at individual BAME representation - those of Indian ethnicity, at 8%, were almost three times as prominent amongst IT specialists within the workforce as a whole at 3%. The next most prevalent ethnic groups are from Black / African / Caribbean / Black British backgrounds at 2%, and Pakistani / Bangladeshi also at 2%.
No evidence of a pay gap
The report finds no evidence of a pay gap between ethnic groups as a whole. In 2019, BAME IT specialists working as full-time employees were earning the same as IT specialists as a whole - with median hourly rates in each case of £21.
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BAME representation was lowest within the manufacturing sector where just 8% of IT specialists were from BAME ethnic groups. Also, BAME IT specialists are much less likely than others to find employment from others already in post - 10% compared with 18% of white IT specialists over the 2015-19 period.
The most common IT career for BAME IT specialists was that of Business Analyst, Architect & System Designer, and in 2019 just over one quarter (26%) were found to be working in these positions - where salaries for the most experienced can be in excess of £50k.
Conversely, the least common role was that of Web Designer, which though associated with top salaries in the region of £40k, was held by only 9% of BAME IT specialists. Individuals from BAME groups account for 14% of the working age population in 2019 but only 12% of those in work and 22% of the unemployed.
Diversity in IT - still a long way to go
Dr Sam De Silva, technology partner at international law firm CMS and a member of the BCS Society Board said: ‘It is extremely disappointing to see that according to this report people from BAME backgrounds are likely to be more qualified than their white counterparts, but less likely to be in positions of responsibility. However, it is positive to see that there is no evidence of a pay gap between the different ethnic groups.
‘The figures show that there is generally still a long way to go before there is greater diversity in the IT sector. More must be done to encourage people from groups that are currently marginalised to take up a career in this sector.
‘Clearly it is important that the right person is picked for the right job, but there needs to be a more inclusive recruitment approach. IT should be promoted as a great sector that welcomes everyone, no matter what their background, ethnicity or gender.
‘IT is fundamental to the development of our society and its economy. Accordingly, it needs to be fully representative of all communities in order to truly serve all of society. This is particularly important for the development of new technology, such as AI where things like bias have the potential to lead to unfortunate outcomes.
‘We continually hear from Government that there is a significant skills shortage in the IT sector and one way to address this is by making the IT profession attractive and accessible to all.’