The role of data in increasing diversity and inclusion in tech

A recent report on diversity in tech illustrates the importance of data in helping organizations make significant headway in diversity, equality and inclusion and in turn attract new talent.

Vicky Sleight

The role of data in increasing diversity and inclusion in tech

Tech Talent Charter recently delivered its annual Diversity in Tech 2021 report, showcasing curated diversity and inclusion (D&I) from over 580 of their signatory organizations across the UK. As a signatory and contributor to this survey, the findings provide an insightful read, highlighting the power of data in helping organizations make significant headway in this critical growth area.

In the two decades of working in the tech communications industry, I have witnessed the understanding of this function evolve from a nice-to-understand to a necessity as we need to improve our attractiveness to cutting edge talent.

This is particularly true amid the ‘Great Resignation’, which has become more than just a hashtag, as a movement borne of career dissatisfaction gives way to hiring challenges. In the throes of this so-called ‘Big Quit’, it has been particularly difficult for companies to recruit suitable tech employees.

From a tech communications industry perspective, part of the problem is that our industry is not seen as exciting. The statistics are there even if we just look at gender. Despite the fact more women graduate each year compared to men, the technology and telco sector is losing the war on talent to more traditional industries such as pharmaceutical and health as they are now also asking for software developers and data scientists.

As an industry we need to recognize that diversity and inclusion is a business critical and strategic imperative. And it’s not just a gender issue; societal or CSR and diversity exists beyond gender, LGBTQ+ and ethnicity. It should be equal for all and encompass accessibility, neurodiversity, and age, which can all be a key differentiator. Recent McKinsey data reveals that diverse organizations achieve 83% more engagement from employees, experience 20% more innovation, perform 35% better on financial return and generate 38% more revenue on average.

Greater diversity in leadership

And it’s not just about recruitment. Companies must help their employees fine-tune the skills necessary to deliver high value in an increasingly tech-centric environment. They must also get better at retaining and growing diverse representation in leadership positions, while supporting and highlighting role models to attract talent.

When I first landed in tech comms, it was unusual to find a senior female executive leading meetings in boardrooms or on conference platforms. The lack of a diverse and inclusive culture was reflective of a historical mindset that tech comms was a male and engineering-based industry.

Today, there are (just) six women CEOs leading 31 companies within the top global telco space. Professionals across the industry welcome this progress, but the journey the tech comms industry is on, still has a way to go. As an industry we need to get these diverse employees in leadership positions where they own the technology direction and own a very strategic part of the business.

Benchmarking change

Another broad 2021 theme, ‘flattening the curve’, gives us further food for thought. The ubiquitous phrase has underpinned the public health strategy for slowing the spread of Covid, based on data modelling. A related angst is playing out in the business world — in particular, in relation to D&I. Companies are seeking a clear picture of what’s going on in their own backyards, so they can decide how best to plan and act in relation to D&I policies and practices.

Working with the inspiring and committed members of the Diversity and Inclusion Council of TM Forum has reinforced to me how essential this work is. We believe diversity, equality and inclusion is now a strategic imperative our industry must address to remain competitive, relevant and sustainable over the next decade. We are coming together to make real change happen and as a key part of this, and to convince others in the industry of its importance to their business, we are creating a standard industry metric, believed to be the first in the world, to measure diversity and inclusion and provide a benchmark for real change – the Inclusion and Diversity Score (IDS).

The successful trial of IDS is a significant step towards TM Forum’s vision to make the tech communications industry a world leader in diversity, equality, and inclusion (DE&I), transforming the industry’s attractiveness to cutting-edge talent. To achieve this, IDS is designed to deliver a simple, universal measurement and practical guidance to drive actionable change. Following a successful pilot with 5 companies, IDS will now move to a beta phase with a broader set of organizations, ahead of full launch anticipated later in 2022.

Collaborating to bring about change

Tech Talent Charter’s research findings reinforce the power of collaboration across sectors and organizations; working together will shift the dial – and this will happen a lot quicker if we pool our successes, failures, ideas and learn from them to bring about real structural change.

The journey towards true equity is still very much a work in progress. However, I believe no business or individual should go at it alone. It’s a collaborative effort that needs buy-in at all levels to succeed. Once the collective drive and strategic understanding are set in stone, we can start to action real change and develop a healthy environment that attracts and retains the right talent to capitalize on the tremendous growth the industry is seeing and create the future workplace.

I’m delighted that we’re a signatory of the Tech Talent Charter, further uniting with committed industry leaders to make real and lasting change happen.