How to ensure ethnic diversity in the tech sector

Ashleigh Ainsley, co-founder of Colorintech, outlines findings and recommendations from Colorintech’s research on ethnic diversity within the tech sector.

As the technology industry becomes an increasingly influential actor in our society, new innovations, from artificial intelligence to virtual reality, increasingly challenge our conceptions of representation.

When ethnic minorities are excluded from the decisions that shape these views, we push divisiveness to the forefront. Exclusion becomes mainstream and we foster an environment where xenophobia, racism and discrimination are acceptable outcomes from our designs, products and workplaces.

The boardrooms of Britain’s leading companies do not currently reflect the ethnic diversity of either the UK or their key stakeholders, including customers, suppliers and employees, who are critical to their success.

Our research from 2018 shows that less than 3% of board leaders in the technology sector come from ethnic minority backgrounds, despite making up 14% of Britain’s population.

Leadership has a key role in changing this. But individuals charged with leading this change need to be supported. Through our work driving forward the agenda for a more inclusive business ecosystem, we have encountered a range of professionals working towards this aim.

Unfortunately, we have found many individuals are often hamstrung by their organisations and leaders on this mission. Common complaints from leaders of diversity include not having the budget, teams, or internal buy-in to implement even basic changes, such as measuring and tracking diversity figures in their organisation. On the extremes, there are active movements trying to force out those who aim to make our platforms more equitable (See Ellen Pao’s experience at Reddit.).

We were not satisfied these stories were told, nor was there sufficient spotlight on these individuals and the change we are collectively trying to make. We wanted to ensure these stories were told, and industry has clear guidance on how to move forward to progress diverse environments, foster inclusion and engender belonging for all underrepresented communities.

Recommendations

Having commissioned research spanning top executives from Monzo to Netflix, our recommendations are clear:

  1. For founders, executives, and leaders in companies who have a Chief Diversity Officer (CDO):
  • Allocate budget and resource to Diversity & Inclusion (D&I);
  • Marry inclusion and diversity with your strategic objectives;
  • Help your workforce to value D&I principles;
  • Think globally and locally.
  1. For founders, executives, and leaders in companies who don’t have a CDO:
  • Recruit one;
  • Recruit widely;
  • Start early.
  1. For stakeholders who are looking to engage with diversity and inclusion leaders:
  • Set selective, realistic objectives and KPIs;
  • Measure, iterate and improve;
  • Live and breath your values.

Our work spans geographies.

We want to foster collaboration and knowledge transfer from many of the learnings we observe from over a decade of work pursuing similar aims in the USA. There is no reason why the UK and Europe cannot lead on best practice and through our research, we aim to forge guidance on how to do this for all.

While it is clear more work needs to be done, we are forthright in our belief in the ability for Europe to become the world’s most inclusive technology hub.

Find out more about Colorintech

 

Ashleigh Ainsley will be speaking at the CT20 Futures Event on 28th October 2019. To hear more from him and other leaders across the voluntary, public and private sectors, book now. Limited tickets available: https://www.campbelltickell.com/events/ct20futures/

This article will also feature in the CT Brief – Diversity edition, coming out in mid-September. Sign-up here or read past editions here.

To find out more, contact Zina Smith : zina@campbelltickell.com