Interview and recruitment practices must be more inclusive

Evidence from the report suggests that long, prescriptive interview processes, the language of job adverts and poor promotion of flexible options impact the diversity of applicants for IT roles.

To attract a greater number of black women, we should ensure that:

  • All routes (academic and vocational) into the tech industry are considered when hiring for candidates at both entry and senior levels.
  • Job adverts should make obvious that options like schools hours working and schools hours extended leave are available, if they are. This is particularly important because black women often report being the lead carer in their families.
  • Recruitment teams should review the inclusivity of the first human ‘sift’ and consider limiting algorithms to prevent hiring to an organisational template.
  • Outreach events in the local community (schools / colleges) and through social networks can help make it clear that a diverse range of candidates are welcomed.

Leadership should set an example

  • Anyone joining an IT department should enter an inclusive culture and quickly have an achievable career progression pathway set out in their objectives and development plan.
  • Senior technology leaders should expect and want to play a part in increasing the number of black female IT professionals – as part of efforts to grow the proportion of all women in the sector.
  • Senior managers should be proud to have this in their objectives and hold themselves accountable, capturing data such as the ethnicity pay gap.
  • Technologists from ethnic minority groups should be actively identified by the ‘C-Suite’, supported and encouraged to apply for leadership positions, removing the management ceiling. 

A diverse, open culture goes beyond diversity policy

  • While IT teams are in many ways ahead of others on inclusivity, the gender gap in particular needs to close before they are representative of the national workforce.
  • Black women are frequently represented by tech companies in their marketing and recruitment campaigns, but this needs to translate to real opportunities to progress, once inside the system.
  • Respondents to our study have reported that the ‘Type-A’ or ‘Tech-bro culture’ is both a barrier to progression and initial recruitment.
  • Culture change cannot be left to a static policy. All areas of an organisation need to be involved, supportive and able to incorporate DE&I policies into their departments.
  • Truly inclusive environments can be staff networks, education, focus groups and continuous shared review of DE&I policies to understand what is working and ensure implementation isn’t lip service.
  • Investment in this is crucial to increase a sense of belonging, as without investment this can contribute to low levels of engagement, low retention and limited ambition.
  • Removing awkwardness around ‘woke’ or political conversations around ethnicity and allyship across the organisation can help understanding and cultural change.
  • Greater consideration of intersectional identities is required. Organisational initiatives are often highly siloed around a single protected characteristic, and don’t consider when a slightly broader amendment/application of policy could benefit more minority groups.

Partner with groups who can help you

  • IT teams and wider organisations should look at what’s already being done in the industry and seek experienced partners, and be guided by data, so they can move forward with confidence.
  • It is vital to the success of any DE&I policy that organisations first understand their current position by gathering and scrutinising their data more comprehensively than they currently do.
  • This will mean better knowledge and contextual understanding of black women’s experiences as a linked but distinct element of the underrepresentation of all women in technology.
  • There should be more formal training delivered by black women for senior leaders and managers on the unique experiences of black women and how they differ from other marginalised groups.
  • Organisations can partner with a range of IT-focused communities such as Coding Black Females and Black Valley to access free mentoring programmes and training opportunities within the Black community. Mentoring opportunities exist and should be sought in addition to online communities and networking.