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Gender is still the biggest hurdle facing tech talent shortage: new research



Tech

By Loren Webb

With predications that the Australian technology industry will face a shortage of 200,000 skilled workers in the next five years, businesses need to revaluate their diversity and inclusion policies if they want to fill their roles and remain competitive on a global scale, urges tech talent experts Halcyon Knights.

According to a study of 1000 people working in the tech industry across Australia, Halcyon Knights found 69% of respondents believe the biggest hurdles to a diverse workforce are employer driven issues around:

  • culture
  • unconscious bias
  • lack of action
  • lack of interest in STEM education

Halcyon Knights CEO, Lincoln Benbow, said the ‘Shaking the status quota’ report suggests that while diversity and inclusion (D&I) in tech community may be improving, there are still hurdles that are preventing minority identities from wanting to be a part of the technology workforce.

“Australian workers are choosing jobs where they believe they’ll feel included and won’t be faced with discrimination based on their identity. So, businesses need to ensure they’re catching up with modern standards of accessibility and inclusion if they’re to retain and attract key talent, or else they’ll lose top talent to competitors,” said Mr Benbow.

“It goes beyond just ensuring we have diverse and inclusive workplaces because it’s the right thing to do. Australian businesses won’t survive unless they look for talent outside of their current pool – there will simply be too many roles to fill with the existing workforce.”

Discrimination still evident

The report found that 71% of those surveyed had experienced discrimination at some point in their career, but 55% have not experienced discrimination in their current workplace – suggesting the industry is improving and addressing its historical issues. It also points to employees choosing to leave non-inclusive workplaces in favour of inherently inclusive jobs.

Almost two thirds (63%) of respondents who identified as, or have been, the primary carer for a child or dependent person had been paid less than others of a different identity in the same role.

Two fifths (44%) of this group also said they were passed over for a promotion or pay rise and 36% said they were given work under their pay grade because of assumptions made about their identity.

Gender is still the biggest hurdle

Whilst over a quarter (28%) of tech teams report gender parity, which is defined as at least 40% female and 40% male – there are still strides to be made, particularly in regards to inclusivity.

There were also imbalances up the corporate ladder, with only 23% of leadership teams reporting gender parity. If we compare that with the 69% of respondents that believed the biggest hurdles to improving D&I are employer driven – we can see where we are falling short.

“Whether through quotas or other means, improving gender diversity alone is not enough. Businesses need to actively develop culture of belonging and inclusion if they want to retain talent, specifically women and those returning to the workforce, to feel valued and perform well,” said Mr Benbow.

“Top down improvement is key to this; leadership teams need to have better understanding of their team and be more representative themselves. The report found that just 2 in 5 respondents were satisfied with their employer’s efforts to facilitate diversity and diverse representation is one way we can naturally breed improvements throughout the company.”

Moving beyond just gender

The Australian tech industry performs exceptionally well in other diversity measurements, with 82% of respondents reporting that they worked in an ethnically diverse team.  17% of people reported to have someone in their tech team living with a disability and 34% of respondents said they work with someone who openly identifies as LGBTQI+.

But 23% of respondents said that even if their workplace is diverse by numbers, it’s not inclusive in behaviour:

  • Half of respondents said they had previously been undermined (constantly spoken over by others, had ideas or credit stolen) by others of a majority identity.
  • This was particularly high for those identifying as living with a disability (85%) and those identifying as LBTQI+ (73%).
  • 55% of those identifying as LBTQI+, 53% of those identifying as a person living with a disability and 47% of those who identified as a person of colour also reported having been paid less than others of a different identity in the same role.

“Just 1 in 4 respondents said their workplace has programs led by HR or leadership that actively encourage recruitment or retention of people of minority identities,” said Mr Benbow.

“Being invited to the party is one thing but inclusion, or being asked to dance, is whole other ball game. Inclusion goes beyond the numbers to focus on the behaviours and actions that workplaces can take to make diversity sustainable, valuable and actually inclusive. This is where Australian tech employers should focus their efforts and become champions of change.”

“Targets and quotas can be valuable – putting achievable metrics in place encourages companies to operationalise their intentions, but balanced representation means very little if it is not underpinned by a healthy culture of belonging,” said Mr Benbow.

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