Businesses are embracing DE&I strategies but must do more to rewrite the code on diversity in tech
By Khadijah Pandor, Head of Partnerships, EMEA & NA, at Wiley Edge
Strides are being made to overcome a historical lack of diversity within the tech sector. According to research published in our Diversity in Tech 2023 report, more than half (52%) of businesses set diversity targets, up from 46% last year. An increasing number of firms are embracing diversity and anti-bias hiring strategies, but more still needs to be done to create lasting change.
Our report, based on a survey of 300 senior IT leaders within medium to large enterprises, highlighted that anti-bias interview training remained the most popular DE&I strategy, increasing from 41% to 43%. By using a standardised set of interview questions that focus on job-relevant criteria, hiring managers can help to prevent personal biases from impacting their assessment of candidates.
The use of blind CV reviews, which minimise unconscious bias by forcing reviewers to focus solely on candidates’ qualifications and experience, has also risen over the past year from 25% to 31%.
While progress is happening, deep challenges remain when it comes to nurturing diverse talent and realising the full rewards this brings. Our research revealed that only 25% of companies now prioritise diverse shortlists during the hiring process – a steep drop from 37% last year. What’s more, just 44% of firms published neutral job descriptions, which involves prioritising gender neutral language and avoiding stereotypically gendered terms to avoid bias, over the past year.
Turning policy into reality
Businesses also appear to be struggling to turn their existing policies into reality. Almost half (46%) of workers report that they have been personally failed by their workplace DE&I programme. This suggests structural inequities that favour majority groups remain largely embedded into talent management processes. As a result, leadership teams must understand how to create lasting change with DE&I strategies that create a genuine, positive impact for candidates.
To do this, anti-bias hiring strategies must be expanded to create stronger, more merit-based recruitment practices over the long-term. For example, businesses can conduct skills assessments and audits to objectively evaluate a candidate’s abilities based on the requirements of the role. They can also ensure that hiring panels and interviewers represent a range of backgrounds and perspectives. Companies should also ensure that candidates selected for final interview stages are from a diverse range of backgrounds.
Businesses should create a diverse talent pool by carefully constructing job descriptions that are free from biased language and soley request qualifications that are essential for the role. As many tech companies only hire from top universities, the requirement for specific qualifications may exclude those from lower socio-economic or ethnic minority backgrounds. By offering apprenticeships or training programs specifically for developing talent from underrepresented groups, businesses offer those otherwise excluded an alternative pathway. Organisations can assist candidates in securing skills they may have otherwise lacked access to through tailored programmes.
Room for growth
Such talent development policies not only improve fairness and diversity, but also deliver tangible bottom-line benefits, with more diverse teams consistently outperforming homogenous ones on metrics including innovation, engagement, and profitability. For example, McKinsey has found that ethnically diverse executive teams were 36% more likely to see above-average profitability, whilst companies with inclusive cultures are eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes. Employees in inclusive environments also report higher job satisfaction, trust in leadership, and intentions to stay at the company long-term.
Homogenous teams built through non-inclusive practices tend to suffer from groupthink and are less likely to make strong business decisions. Conversely, the ability of diverse teams to leverage their range of expertise and experience has supported 75% of businesses to exceed their financial targets. What’s more, turnover amongst marginalised employee groups is significantly higher, with 63% of UK businesses finding that this has caused their company culture to suffer.
Failure to open your doors to more diverse talent can also hamper growth. Research released earlier this year revealed that 94% of employers looking for tech talent have encountered a skills shortage, which only emphasises the reality that filtering out candidates based on demographics rather than capabilities fails to serve the interests of any organisation or candidate.
Rewriting the code on diversity in tech
It can be difficult for employers to know where to start when it comes to rewriting the code on diversity in tech, but the proactive steps taken by employers this year are promising. Our research shows that progress continues to be made in the right direction.
Since prioritising diversity targets, 96% of businesses have noticed a positive impact on their workforce diversity. Importantly, these efforts haven’t gone unnoticed by employees, as just 6% of Gen Z tech workers say that diversity was not a priority to their employer during their own recruitment journey.
However, it is also clear that companies have more work to do to strengthen their DE&I policies and ensure that talent from diverse backgrounds feel encouraged to pursue a career in tech. Whilst companies that champion inclusion will benefit from improved financial performance, greater innovation, and employee retention, those that fail to create level playing fields will lag behind. Though boosting diversity takes work, an inclusive, equitable workforce is ultimately every enterprise’s greatest competitive advantage.