Diversity can only help improve the tech sector - Annette Joseph

How would you have coped over the past 16 months without technology? It’s been at the root of everything – binge watching shows on digital platforms, online prescription fulfilment, grocery shopping in self-isolation and all the bits in between.

Annette Joseph is founder, speaker and agile coach at Diverse & Equal.

It’s kept the economy running, allowing many of us the functionality and flexibility to work from home while keeping us connected with loved ones, despite tiers and restrictions.

This crucial digital industry turned over £151bn in 2019. While many industries have been negatively impacted by the effects of the pandemic, the UK digital sector has outpaced growth from previous years.

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What’s even more impressive is that the year-on-year growth is stunted by a skills gap which Accenture estimates at £141bn UK GDP in lost productivity and innovation.

The Leeds City Region has the fastest-growing digital economy outside London with 9,000 digital companies employing 102,000 staff. According to the 2011 census, 18 per cent of the population of Leeds is made up of people from more than 140 ethnic groups.

Yet this diversity isn’t reflected in the sector.

As society becomes more dependent on technology, it’s important that the industry itself reflects the vibrancy and richness of our multicultural society in workspaces and output.

The research project being led by Diverse & Equal on behalf of WILD for Leeds’s digital sector is a significant step to discovering how to make the industry more representative of the city region.

Leeds aims to lead the way in innovative, inclusive products and services that solve problems for users both at home and globally. A diverse workforce needs to be at the heart of this – so, the project is the first step to helping the sector achieve the city’s future ambition.

The insights gained from the survey will underpin targeted efforts to embed fully inclusive digital work spaces where world class innovation lives and where people from all ethnicities and backgrounds thrive.

What is there to gain from diversity in the sector?

The transformation that occurs when people from diverse backgrounds use their skill, experiences and knowledge to innovate, begin and end in company culture.

For organisations that are fully inclusive, where employees are free to bring their whole selves to work, where they feel a sense of belonging and where their differences are valued, there are big rewards.

Numerous studies in the UK and across the globe have shown that tech organisations that are diverse and inclusive are more productive, have greater innovation and are able to make up to 33-35 per cent more profit than those that aren’t.

Organisations that have inclusive cultures have greater job satisfaction, attract higher quality talent and have better employee retention.

Ever day digital products and services negatively impact people whose needs weren’t considered. In education – the algorithm that scored A level results last year based on the history of the school demonstrates the importance and the scale of these potential impacts.

Government – Black and minority ethnic people could be falsely identified and face questioning because police have failed to test how well their systems deal with non-white faces.

Automotive – crash test dummies designed for 6ft men that increase the probability of serious injury to women by 73 per cent and death by 17 per cent. These are just a few examples. There are many more.

The project, aiming to embed diversity in the sector from the ground up, is sponsored by

Leeds City Council, University of Leeds, BJSS, Bruntwood SciTech, Crisp, Sky Betting and Gaming and TPP. The survey will run until mid-August with qualitative research being conducted throughout.

The outcomes of the survey will be released at Leeds Digital Festival.

Annette Joseph is founder, speaker and agile coach at Diverse & Equal

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