It will take several years before we can conclusively define the winners of the troubling circumstances of the past year, but it’s clear some industries adapted more effectively to overcome the challenges of lockdowns and the economic shock
One such industry is the UK’s technology industry, which despite difficult circumstances, has seen a boom in recruitment and growth in headcount, now employing more individuals than at any time in its history according to official data released by ONS.
Yet this impressive growth comes at a time when the UK employment rate is suffering. According to ONS data released in June, the UK unemployment rate has dropped once again, falling to 4.7% in the three months to April 2021, this representing about 1.6 million people. Sadly, it is young people who have been particularly badly hit, with those aged 35 and under bearing the brunt of job losses, accounting for 80% of jobs lost in the past year.
Shocking as this disparity may be, it does offers technology firms with a notable opportunity – one which should not be overlooked.
Diversity in technology both technology and the wider STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) industries has historically fallen short and remains a key challenge for the sector both in the UK and across the globe.
According to independent body Diversity In Tech, just 15% of the UK tech workforce is black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME).iv A major report from Inclusive Boards, which encourages organisations to develop more inclusive and representative senior teams, found the tech sector’s senior leadership is woefully lacking in diversity in the UK. Just 8.5% of senior leaders in the sector were found to be from a BAME background. What’s more, 65% of boards in the top tech firms surveyed had no female directors, while over two-fifths of executive teams had no female representation at all.v
Yet the key to successful design and innovation is to understand the rich perspectives, views and values of the world. How else can technology firms design products and services which adequately meet the wants and needs of the diverse populations which make up their customer base?
Clearly, it is imperative the technology sector ensures tomorrows innovators are representative of the world we live in. With this in mind, paired with the fact more people, particularly young people, are looking for a job than ever – now is the time for technology firms to improve their hiring for good.
The benefits to this shift change will be felt across the board. More diverse teams can help companies to eliminate conscious and unconscious bias, leading to more inclusive innovation, better products and customer experiences that drive loyalty and profitability. In McKinsey’s Diversity Matters report, it was found companies with high levels of ethnic and cultural diversity were 33% more likely to outperform their competitors.
Not only will firms reap the benefits of having wide ranging perspectives and experiences at their fingertips, they will be helping talented people from diverse backgrounds to either enter, or re-enter, an exciting workforce at an incredibly challenging time.
For firms to truly diversify, changes must be implemented at every level. It doesn’t only come down to HR and recruitment practices to bring a more diverse pool of talent in, it’s equally important to ensure employees at all levels are knowledgeable in the benefits of diversity and are well-equipped to champion this.
At SharkNinja, our internal DEI and WeLead (gender diversity) teams have been working to establish a series of comprehensive series of activities and talks. We have partnered with non-profit organisations Stonewall and Status Queer, who have come in to speak with our staff about LGBTQIA+ and gender diversity in tech. We are also launching a 10-part speaker series addressing a range of topics including: LGBTQIA+, Disability in the workplace, Dyslexia & the creative mindset, and The Power of Neurodiversity in the Workplace.
As an industry leading in the realities of a post pandemic world, all of us in the technology sector have our part to play, whether that is getting engaged with the gender equality ventures our companies run (or setting these up if they don’t yet exist) or working to spread awareness of the vast careers in STEM. Following the vast changes to everyone’s lifestyles in the past 18 months, the post-Covid rebuilding period is a once in a generation opportunity for the technology industry to tackle bias and build a diverse and inclusive environment for young people and those of diverse background to thrive in.
About the Author
Lauren McMullan is VP & General Manager at SharkNinja London. At SharkNinja, our purpose is to positively impact people’s lives every day in every home around the world. We thrive on passion and innovation, and are looking for great people, with great ideas, who want to create the next big thing. We take a team approach to our projects, where everyone has a voice. We want individuals to push limits, look outside the box and think the unthinkable.