The Business Case for Diversity: Empowering Growth in the UK’s Tech Sector

As the technology landscape continues to develop and shift at an unprecedented pace, the need for a diverse and inclusive workforce becomes even more pressing. The UK tech scene, in particular, is thriving, having seen recent major investment in its AI sector, making it the biggest in Europe.

As this hub continues to grow, what does this mean for London’s burgeoning tech workforce? And how do we ensure that our local communities reap the benefits of these new opportunities? 

It may not come as a surprise that the UK’s tech sector is predominately made up of a white male workforce – a 2023 report found that only 29% of UK tech employees are women and non-binary, while a mere 25% are ethnic minorities. This data highlights a concerning diversity gap in an industry that is playing a growing role in shaping the future of the economy and society. 

The equities within the sector are perpetuating existing prejudices within the UK’s workforce. Underrepresented groups face barriers to entry, from biased recruitment practices to a lack of financial support and industry mentors, deterring talented individuals from pursuing careers in tech. 

Diversifying the sector is a vital driver of economic growth and innovation. A diverse workforce brings a wealth of unique perspectives and ideas, which in turn help cultivate creativity and originality within tech giants and startups alike. Different backgrounds and experiences lead to the development of new products and services, tapping into previously untouched markets and increasing revenue streams.

Recent research from McKinsey revealed that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 39% more likely to financially outperform their less diverse counterparts. This statistic reinforces the tangible and commercial benefits of a more inclusive workforce, encompassing increased problem-solving capabilities and enhanced company reputation. 

Economies cannot progress unless people are upskilled. The UK continues to grapple with its skills shortage as four in five UK employers say a lack of digital skills is negatively impacting their business. This gap will only continue to grow as technology progresses. Data from the World Economic Forum suggests that the emergence of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence and renewable energy, will disrupt at least a quarter of jobs over the next five years, as many employees will find themselves lacking the skills they need to succeed in the digital landscape. 

Investing in the UK’s job pipeline should therefore be an immediate priority if we are to maintain our technological prowess and economic influence on the global stage. UK businesses and government bodies play a pivotal role in mobilising social inclusion across the UK, and one of the main ways they can do this is by drawing from a wider talent pool and therefore opening up career pathways for minority groups. 

Educational institutions also have the power to support inclusive initiatives and raise awareness about the various career opportunities in tech for people from different backgrounds.

At a recent Diversity in Technology event held in partnership with Hackney Council at Here East, a tech and innovation campus in London, we witnessed the benefits of educational programmes and mentors in highlighting the various, less visible pathways into the UK tech industry. Convening young people and locals, the event showcased the less traditional routes that can lead to success in tech and beyond, while spotlighting the important role that soft skills play in diversifying and sustaining our future industries.

It is imperative that we encourage and adequately equip young people with the skills and confidence to venture down new career pathways. This will ensure that local communities are reaping the rewards from a more inclusive education to job pipeline, which will translate into a more diverse sector more widely. 

Diversifying the UK’s tech sector is more rewarding than just being a tick-box exercise. It is a social and moral imperative that simultaneously fosters innovation and works to bridge our skills gap. Businesses, local governments, and educational institutions have the power to build a more flexible and robust workforce, catalysing creative solutions and a prosperous future for all.