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Black women missing from tech industry, according to a report.

Black women missing from tech industry, according to a report.

According to a joint report by campaigners and a representative body, up to 20,000 black women are "missing" from the UK tech industry.According to the report, the proportion of black women in IT is two and a half times lower than that of the overall UK workforce.

According to the campaigning group Coding Black Females, tech "desperately needed" more people from diverse backgrounds.

Industry organisations agree that "more must be done" to support diversity.

The authors of the Coding Black Females (CBF) and BCS report discovered that black women made up 1.8% of the UK workforce but only 0.7% of those working in technology after analysing data from the Office of National Statistics.

To fill the gap, an additional 20,000 black women would need to be recruited in addition to the 12,000 already working in IT.

Women are also under-represented in senior leadership positions, according to the report. According to the report, only 17% of IT directors will be female in 2021.

According to the report, while ethnic-minority representation in IT is higher than in the general workforce, this is largely due to the high proportion of tech professionals of Indian origin.

'The only one in the room'

Through surveys and in-depth interviews, the authors also sought to shed light on the experiences of black women in the industry.

Deloitte software engineer Siba Munsanje told researchers:

"You have to get used to knowing that you are the only one in the room on the team, in the project, at the conference.

"Sometimes it can become a bit challenging. Sometimes... you can see people tiptoeing around you a little bit or making sad jokes - it's those little things that you have to put up with."

Nicola Martin, head of quality engineering at Adarga, a UK-based artificial-intelligence software firm, said: "Now stats are being published related to diversity in tech, we can see there is still a lot of work to do.

"The tech industry needs to encourage more diversity to ensure that people want to stay in the industry."

The Story of Charlene Hunter - Black Women in Tech

 

In the report, 350 black women were asked to share their stories.

Respondents believed that more could be done to encourage black female applicants, such as outreach to relevant communities to raise awareness of available opportunities.

According to some women, the interview process and workplace culture would deter applicants. According to one report respondent, the "tech bro" culture is exhausting.

CBF CEO Charlene Hunter told the BBC that women's experiences showed that there were still barriers to getting a job in tech.

"You hear often stories of people applying for roles and not really being given any actual feedback. You know you meet all of the criteria, but something doesn't quite feel right."

But the discrepancy was not just about numbers employed but also their opportunities to build careers.

"We need senior leaders to match the large numbers of black women currently appearing in tech and engineering adverts, with genuine opportunities to progress into rewarding jobs," Ms Hunter said.

She drew particular attention to the development of artificial intelligence - there is a concern that AI systems can display bias against different ethnicities and genders.

More diversity in senior positions would help ensure that bias considerations were "included in every part of your design process."

"We will only be able to build systems that serve everyone if the diversity of humanity is represented in the project teams that design and build these systems," said Rashik Parmar, chief executive of the BCS, the professional body for computing.

According to Nimmi Patel of the trade association Tech UK, while steps are being taken to support diversity and inclusion in the tech workforce, "clearly more needs to be done."

"Both industry and government should collaborate to inspire, educate, and attract diverse talent to ensure that black women - and women in general - enter and advance through the industry," she said.