Rebecca George

If you’re reading this conclusion, you’ll already know that the IT profession is integral to the country’s success and prosperity both today, and in our post-Brexit future. It’s a sector that will continue to grow, but if the benefits of this growth are to be spread across all of society, it is vital that the IT profession leads in making sure that it is representative of the UK as a whole; that’s how we help make IT good for society.

Sadly though, as this report shows, despite being a relatively new sector, where someone’s ability should be the only barrier to entry, ours is a sector where:

  • Woman are underrepresented by 30 percentage points.
  • When it comes to older people and those with disabilities, the sector employs proportionately fewer than the total workforce in every UK region.
  • If you are a member of any of the minority groups analysed, you are less likely to be in full-time, paid work than your non-minority counterparts.
  • If you are a woman, or a person with a disability, you are likely to be paid 15% and 16% less respectively than your non-minority counterparts.

From a gender perspective, the numbers look depressingly familiar to those that we have reported on annually for the past three years.

Whichever way we look at it, these figures make for sobering and depressing reading. Whatever actions that have been taken so far to instigate change, simply aren’t having the marked and imperative change that we need.

We believe that real change has to come from the top. And that change can, and should start now.

Men run most of the organisations in our sector, so we have to start there. As they are four times more likely than women to say that they are don’t see discrimination happening, we clearly need to change the entire way that they think.

We need to point out to them why they need to change the way that they encourage, recruit, promote, recognise and reward people from our identified minority groups is vitally important. They need to do it in their role as business leaders, but also in their roles as fathers, grandparents, uncles and cousins.

We also need to point out how they can implement some simple changes to make a difference. My own organisation for example, uses contextualised recruitment to make more informed choices about candidates by considering the context in which their academic achievements have been gained. Unconscious bias training needs to be more thoughtful about ethnicity and disability.

Career counselling must take into consideration the different pressures that ethnic backgrounds and disability place on people as they go through their careers. Job assessment marking needs to recognise that women tend to underestimate their own skills, whereas men overestimate them, thus leading to fewer women being selected for interview.

I could go on. There are lots of examples where simple, organisational changes can be made to alter the status quo - but it will require a a myriad of changes, sustained focus and collaboration across organisations, employers, government, schools and community groups if we’re to change anything.

That’s why, with the publication of this report, BCS is calling for each and everyone 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.

As Sheryl Sandberg would say, we, the diverse and underrepresented, need to ‘lean-in’ / take chances / say ‘I can do this’, because when we try, we achieve things we never even thought possible. We need to step forward, smile and engage.

Rebecca George OBE Vice Chair, Public Sector Lead at Deloitte; Vice-President, BCS Organisation and Employers Board