The UK government ended the first month of 2018 with an agreement to sign the Tech Talent Charter diversity initiative, as part of efforts to address the lack of gender diversity and skills in the technology industry.
Signing the charter commits UK government tech teams to including women on interview shortlists wherever possible and collecting and submitting anonymised data for an annual diversity report.
The Tech Talent Charter is a timely initiative that was founded to put the UK at the forefront in tackling this ongoing imbalance of gender and diversity within the industry.
According to research from TTC, only 17 percent of tech and IT workers in the UK are women, and only one in 10 students taking A-Level computer studies are female.
Susan Bowen, GM and VP at managed hosting business Cogeco Peer 1 explained to Techworld that the company is supporting the charter with a TechUK skills and diversity council that Bowen acts as the chair of – established in November 2017 – as well as partnering with TTC to achieve a goal of 500 members by the end of 2018.
"It's not about women, it's about tech talent in digital skills and diversity and acknowledging that you need to have the right skills," Bowen said. "There's this phrase about talent being the currency of the future and digital talent is going to be the sterling of the future."
More than 100 members are involved in the TTC initiative, including Deloitte, Sage, HP, techUK, and Cisco.
"The beauty of the TTC is that the signatories commit to sharing data, so whether you're Deloitte or Cogeco Peer 1 you provide data on your technical and digital roles and the diversity of those digital roles," Bowen explained.
"At the moment it's easier to show male versus female for gender balance because a lot of companies do not tend to hold data on any other requests, so we start with that but the fact is you cannot be a signatory unless you're prepared to share your data so we can track the progress.
"I think that's what people are finding really attractive because they have to do things like gender change now and equal pay, but they have to do that legally. They hold a lot of the data so putting it together collectively shows the format per industry and then allows us to say what other initiatives we can use to target the real problems."
As the UK gets closer to implementing the long-awaited GDPR regulations, more companies are considering the way their organisations are run. Growing concerns over the digital skills gap in the UK have also spurred this change.
"We have to be focused on that digital talent and we have to start that focus now," Bowen said. "We can't wait for the powers of the trade negotiations to be completed to find out that we changed posterity and did nothing else in that policy."
Now is the time for companies to identify where they fall short in embracing diversity and talent in their organisations in order to make room for improvement, and with initiatives like TTC and TechUK's skills and diversity council, the assistance is available.
"It shows that you have to check yourself and your company in every decision that you make, in how you present yourself and how you hire," added Bowen. "It is true that the reality is the pool of people coming forward isn't enough but you still have to make sure the points are put out and supply chains will have to be on point for that otherwise you do not create conditions for change.
"I think there's never been a better time to have a choice and I actually think children today need to be given that choice."
It is crucial to promote the technology industry to a wider pool of people to ensure this skills gap gets plugged, according to Bowen: "Students can go to university in many different ways now and the UK still needs to be an attractive place for countries outside as well.
"We should find ways to not have Brexit sensationalised because in many ways whatever the outcomes of the trade agreements and negotiations we should let them deal with that, but shame on us if we let that become a distraction."
Skills and diversity awareness
Along with the TTC, there are other initiatives that are aimed at boosting skills and diversity in tech organisations.
"If everyone comes together and we share best practice whilst utilising the initiatives out there, we just need to connect the dots on them - we don't need to create any more initiatives because there's so many out there," said Bowen.
"For the skills and diversity council, the three big initiatives are Girl Guide Badges, TTC, People Like Me and then the returners hubs. The other one we're working on is a fabulous organisation called We Connect and it's about the slowdown and recognition of diverse supply chains.
"I think that's really critical because no one company does everything, there's always a third party and a niche supplier or a flow down agreement to a company somewhere."