Analysing diversity in the UK’s IT workforce

We recently witnessed a major social event bringing together people from all walks of life in the pursuance and celebration of a shared dream - and no I’m not referring here to England winning the word cup - but instead, the annual Pride in London LGBT+ parade - an event involving around 500 groups and drawing in a crowd of over 1 million people.

According to Pride in London’s website, the movement is the UK’s biggest, most diverse pride and is designed to raise awareness of LGBT+ issues and to give LGBTQ people a platform to be visible and speak loudly to the rest of the city about what they have achieved, how far they have come and what is still needed.

The event was, by all accounts, a huge success and continues to inspire and empower all those seeking to promote and achieve tolerance, inclusion and equality for all, i.e. individuals of ‘every race and faith, whether disabled or able-bodied, and all sexualities and genders including lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual, queer, questioning, intersex, trans*, genderqueer, gender variant or non-binary as well as straight and cis allies.’ Again, taken from Pride in London website.

But when we talk about the LGBT+ community, just how big an element of society is it that we are referring to, and, more specifically how does this equate when considering the tech workforce in particular?

So first off, it has to be noted that there are, in fact, no definitive official stats covering the whole of this group though, according to latest estimates from the ONS Annual Population Survey (APS), around 2% of the population in 2016 (that’s just over 1 million people in total) identified themselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB). This figures are take from ONS Statistical Bulletin - Sexual identity, UK: 2016.

ONS estimates also show those aged 16 - 24 were more likely to identify themselves as LGB than other age groups, as were males as opposed to females (2.3% versus 1.6%). Further analysis by nation/region also shows Scotland as having the largest proportion of the population identifying as LGB (2.2%), whilst amongst the English regions, the highest proportion was observed in London (2.7%).

What the standard release data from ONS doesn’t show however, is the proportion of the workforce identifying themselves as LGB, or the breakdown by occupational group which we have set out in the sections below based upon our own analysis of APS data held at the ONS Secure Research Service (SRS):

Proportion Of Workforce Identifying Themselves As LGB, 2016

This analysis shows that at a high level, of the nine ‘major’ occupational groups under which the workforce is categorised, sales and customer service workers appeared most likely to identify themselves as LGB during 2016 (i.e. 3.7% of this group). Those working in skilled trades or as plant/ machine operatives were least likely to do so (1.5% and 1.7% respectively).

Drilling down to more specific occupations (at what is called is called ‘minor’ group level) however, we find that individuals working as ‘media professionals’ (i.e. ‘individuals who plan, coordinate and technically supervise activities in journalism, public relations and advertising’) are the most likely to consider themselves as LGB (6.3%). This is followed by those working in artistic, literary and media occupations (5.5%), other elementary Services occupations1 (4.5%), health and social services managers/directors (4.5%) and ...... those working as IT Technicians (4.4%).

Top five (minor) occupational groups, by level of LBG representation, 2016

Top five (minor) occupational groups, by level of LBG representation, 2016

1 Media Professionals 6.3%
2 Artistic, Literary and Media Occupations 5.5%
3 Other Elementary Services Occupations 4.5%
4 Health and Social Services Managers and Directors 4.5%
5 IT Technicians 4.4%
 

As noted in the chart below - aside from having the fifth highest level of LGB representation, IT technicians were also notably more likely to identify themselves as being LGB than other groups of tech specialists2, though for each of the tech related occupational groups for which LGB data is available, tech specialists appear more likely than their peers to identify themselves as LGB.

Proportion Of the Workforce Identifying Themselves As LGB, 2016

Though IT technicians are proportionately more likely to identify themselves as LGB, the number of individuals in such roles that consider themselves LGB is relatively small however as there are relatively few tech workers as a whole in the UK working in such positions. So, of all LGB tech specialists working in the UK during 2016, it is estimated that around 9,000 were working as IT technicians compared with 37,000 who were in ‘IT professional’ positions.

So now we know something more about the scale of LGB representation within the tech workforce, the next question to be addressed is – what are their real world experiences of living and working in what we like to think of as a fair, tolerant and inclusive society? Sadly, it is at this point that, at the moment, we need to take a pause in our investigations, as this level of analysis is not currently available.

However, early findings in the recently published National LGBT Survey from the Equalities Office, suggest that ‘though [LGBT] respondents were generally positive about the UK’s record on LGBT rights, some of the findings make for difficult reading’. Other important findings include:

  • LGBT respondents are less satisfied with their life than the general UK population
  • At least two in five had experienced an incident in the 12 months preceding the survey because they were LGBT (e.g. verbal harassment or physical violence), and more than nine in ten of the most serious incidents went unreported.
  • 23% had experienced a negative or mixed reaction from others in the workplace due to being LGBT, or being thought to be LGBT

We do not yet have access to data relating to the thoughts and experiences of LGBT tech specialists, however, we have put in a request to the DfE/Equalities Office and hope to update this blog in due course. Sadly though, this is likely to be less than positive however as within the closing notes of the EA report it is stated that: ‘The LGBT survey has yielded a substantial amount of data. In this summary report and in the more substantive analytical publication we have published alongside it, we have provided an overview of that data. While there were some positive messages, in many cases what we have found is sobering. The results demonstrate that despite recent legislative achievements, the UK still has more to do to improve outcomes for LGBT people and to create a society where people feel comfortable being who they are.’

BCS is a signatory to the Engineering Diversity Concordat which outlines principles and objectives that all professional institutions can commit to in order to increase diversity. We measure, monitor and support our equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) work through the adoption of the Diversity Progression Framework. 

To find out more about what BCS is doing to create a fairer and more tolerant society not just for tech specialists but for all those working within or with the IT industry in particular, visit please read BCS’s Diversity in IT 2017: shaping our future together and Moving On Up: a BCS analysis of social mobility in IT.

Note

The data presented within this data blog is derived primarily from APS estimates sourced via the ONS SRS. When producing these figures various filters have been applied to the data (age, work status, tech specialist definitions etc) details of which are available on request - just drop us a line.

 
References

1 Workers in this minor group perform manual tasks to assist nursing and domestic staff in hospitals, perform a variety of cleaning, preparation, carrying and fetching tasks in kitchens, serves food, beverages and alcoholic drinks in catering, domestic and other establishments, assist in the operation of cinemas, theatres, amusement arcades, funfairs, theme parks and holiday camps, and perform other elementary personal service occupations not elsewhere classified.

2 Note that the groups here are less detailed than those normally used due to the relatively small number of respondents involved and subsequent restrictions on data release imposed by ONS.

Written by Peter Hounsome of Sagacity Research

August 2018
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