We live in a city that prides itself on its diverse, cosmopolitan nature. Indeed, almost half (46%) of Tech London Advocates see London technology companies as the most accessible to women in world. Yet, sadly, our most exciting industry fails to reflect this – most noticeably at senior level.
Indeed, a quarter companies within London tech community employ no women at board level, according to a survey of Tech London Advocates members.
This truly disappointing statistic is reinforced by the latest GLA figures, which show while 50 per cent on Londoners are women, only 12% of those surveyed actually worked at companies with boards that reflected this ratio.
However, the importance of diversity is not new news. It is something that the tech sector is desperately calling for, with 59% of the Tech London Advocates surveyed stating that the capital’s technology companies simply do not reflect the vibrant diversity of the city.
We need to use London Technology Week as a platform to attract more people of all backgrounds to digital careers, showcasing as a community what we can offer and why we need a broader range people.
Monday’s Tech London Advocates Women in Tech working group provided an exceptional example of this. Hosted by Baroness Lane Fox at the House of Lords, the private event for Tech London Advocate explored the creative potential of diverse workforces within technology companies.
Baroness Lane Fox argued that we must accept the scale of this problem; even the House of Lord has a greater proportion of women than in British tech companies. Mobilising an underutilized pool of talent can only have huge benefits to the digital industry.
This was the topic of conversation at this morning’s techUK women in tech panel at the Excel Centre. I sat on a panel including the likes of Claire Cockerton, techUK’s Jacqueline de Rojas and Transferwise’s Wendi Lee had an impassioned debate around the need for greater diversity in the tech sector. One thing is clear, this has to be addressed during London Technology Week.
For the capital diversity is a crucial tool for success. It is an essential component of the growth of a company and a catalyst for innovation. The best ideas stem from divergence – from a room of people questioning and refining each other’s ideas, not from a group of people nodding in agreement.
Diversity can offer this divergence. A bank of varied viewpoints is a brilliant asset to any company; but it is essential for London’s tech sector to maintain its disruptive mentality, to remain ahead of the game in the global tech competition.
The events last week also offered an opportunity to applaud the companies currently creating diverse workforce practices and supportive cultures reflected in London’s society.
Last week Friday’s Innovate Finance Diversity Awards was acting as the pinnacle of these celebrations.
The discussion can’t simply stop at the end of this week. It needs to be constantly maintained and nurtured to actually take affect.
This is the very reason for the formation of the Tech London Advocates Women in Tech Working group, which regularly facilitates the continuation of this critical conversation. The group is not merely about discussion, it is about change and action.
As a collective TLA Women In Tech have made a series of recommendations to the private sector to help narrow the gender gap and improve diversity in London’s tech workforce. These include creating data points that raise awareness around the issue, securing the support of the C-suite team to improve diversity and gaining mentorship from senior women for support and guidance.
To add my own personal advice to mix, as a man speaking to male-dominated sector, men need to take an active role in driving this agenda. To ensure the success of the capital’s tech sector, men have a responsibility to play a key role in driving a diversity agenda, whether it is in the classroom or in the boardroom.
The coming days will bring together members of the digital community, business and government leaders to debate the challenges affecting tech. Undoubtedly diversity will feature in these discussions, and as one fellow Advocate said in a meeting this week, ‘this should not be number 3 or 4 on the list of tech priorities, but number 1’. I could not agree more!
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