The Digital sector should be diverse. By its very nature digital transformation is driven by unique thinking and differences in views. Despite this, the tech market is still lacking in areas of diversity. For example, a recent Computer Weekly report found that only 16% of the technology workforce were female.
On the 17th January in Manchester, a group of around 20 digital leaders met to further the discussion on increasing diversity within the North West’s digital community. Lead discussant Nicky Stewart (Commercial Director at UKCloud) kicked off the evening by commenting on young age gender stereotyping. John Air (Director of Digital Service at Co-op) then discussed diversity further, leading into a group discussion on equality in the workplace.
Gender came out as a key issue during the evening. Several themes centred around how to encourage more women into the digital industry, particularly as there is currently a huge job gap in the technical market. Though some controversial opinions emerged, many felt that education played a key role in encouraging women to enter the STEM workplace. The role of nature vs nurture was also mentioned, which prompted further thinking on gender perceptions’ influence in career paths.
The recent Digital Entrepreneur Awards was a talking point. This award ceremony, taking place only a few months ago, celebrated entrepreneurs by providing entertainment in the form of female erotic dancers. Most felt this was behind the times, showing a clear lack of judgement. Lessons may have been learned though, with negative write-ups being published in the Times, The Register and the Daily Mail. Many also noted how the event could have avoided bad PR, simply by asking for the views of someone outside the events team.
Age in the workforce was another key matter of discussion. The salon group comprised of a wide range of ages, leading to varied opinions being given. Some felt that many young people lack the skills to enter the workforce, whilst others argued that more should be done to encourage young people into STEM careers – such as recruitment at school job fairs. Many companies, such as UKCloud, were praised for their placement schemes.
A positive point of the evening was the statements on the true benefit of diversity. A range of people in the workforce can lead to real cognitive diversity, helping projects and organisations to innovate and learn. Not only this, but some evidence given at the salon suggested that a varied team can help a company better understand its target audience.
Overall the event was a huge success. Salons like these help to further the debate, and help different generations come together and discuss the path ahead. One takeaway from the evening was clear – though we have come a long way, there is still more room for diversity in the digital world ahead.