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Half say tech sector biased against women

Encouragingly, the study suggests those that recognise the gravity of the situation are taking steps to address it

Half (49.2%) of London’s technology sector believes the industry is actively biased against women, according to research from Tech London Advocates.

When asked what drives value and competency within the workforce of a technology company, only one in 20 (5.8%) respondents cited gender diversity and one in 10 (9.4%) multicultural diversity. Neither were deemed as significant as a range of professional expertise (40.8%) and cross-sector professional expertise (29.8%) – the two most popular factors.

Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates, called for urgent culture change.

“Peel back a layer of tech entrepreneurialism and disappointment is revealed – a lack of diversity and gender bias that remains the industry’s Achilles heel,” he said.

”Whether it be opening up immigration policy, increasing access to digital skills, or empowering women to succeed in technology, we must unite to ensure world-class talent finds a home in London’s tech sector regardless of race, age or gender. Enough is enough; more tech companies must demand better for the future.”

Nikki Watkins, co-founder of TLA Women in Tech, advised businesses to review their practices. “We have stated from the outset that we believe companies are sabotaging their future success by not employing gender-diverse workforces,” she said.

“Women bring both similar and unique abilities to companies that can make a difference to the bottom line through collaboration, collective intelligence and a non-groupthink mindset. Women also want similar things to Millennials – life not work/life balance, purpose at work, flexibility and choice, and to make an impact. If companies are serious about their futures then they need to resolve their cultures and working practices for women today, to attract, retain and maximise the talent of tomorrow."

Encouragingly, the study suggests those that have recognised the gravity of the situation are taking steps to address it. Nearly half (46%) of London’s tech companies have an HR or recruitment strategy in place designed to increase employee diversity.

Ann Pickering, O2's HR director, said D&I is rooted in "genuine business sense".

"The value of a diverse workforce to a business cannot be underestimated,” she told HR magazine. “We live in an increasingly diverse society, and it’s crucial that workforces echo businesses’ vibrant and varied customer bases – reflecting customer values and in turn creating happier and more productive teams.

She advised technology firms to embed D&I fully by having a board-level sponsor. “O2’s COO Derek McManus spearheads several of our diversity initiatives," she said.

She added: "Outside of this it’s important for businesses to show ongoing support for initiatives such as women’s or LGBT networks; all of which can act as a platform for support and discussion, helping employees drive the change they want to see in their business.”

The research comes as several reports reveal a endemic culture of sexism in the US' Silicon Valley, with Uber particularly under fire. A former Uber engineer said she had been sexually harassed by her manager and that HR failed to act. The company is now reviewing its practices.