It’s time London tech businesses addressed the elephant in the room

American firm Uber has made headlines for failing to embrace diversity yet UK tech companies are just as culpable, explains Russ Shaw

Today, news broke on another diversity scandal at Uber. This time around, board member David Bonderman resigned following a sexist remark made in a meeting with his colleague Arianna Huffington.

The tech giant’s problems are of course well documented.

Allegations of sexual harassment and gender discrimination have earned Uber a reputation as workplace rife with sexism. Worse, CEO Travis Kalanick has already left after a tumultuous six months that saw at least 20 staff fired over misconduct.

Unfortunately, the diversity problem extends well beyond the boundaries of Silicon Valley

Vacancies are unfilled on both sides of the Atlantic despite the continued rise in demand for jobs, with huge swathes of the population remaining uninspired to enter the tech industry.

Young people, women, members of the LGBT community and people with disabilities are consistently underrepresented in London’s booming tech sector.

Last year, Tech London Advocates (TLA) conducted a survey that found that more than half of members believed that technology companies do not reflect the diversity of the capital.

For a sector so vibrant in a city so open and outward-looking, tech’s diversity problem is something of an elephant in room.

Tackling tech’s diversity problem

That said, tech businesses have started to recognise the issue, helped in part by organisations like TLA Women in Tech, UK BlackTech, InterTech, So You Wanna be in Tech?, TLA LGBTQ, WomenShiftDigital and many others. There is a growing realisation that greater diversity in the sector will fill jobs, unlock creativity and fuel growth.

During London Tech Week, events like BBC Women in Tech and TechXLR8’s Diversity in Tech stream ensure that diversity issues are being addressed, bringing the sector’s best and brightest together to recognise the problem and work towards solutions.

Moreover, it was great to have Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and Lord Chris Holmes launch The Global Disability Innovation Programme on Monday, a tech accelerator to improve the lives of people with disabilities.

We must make sure that we build an industry for everyone, inspiring a new generation to engage with the UK’s fastest growing major sector and upskilling an ageing population in a changing employment landscape.

Demand for digital skills is growing – and the supply is greater than we realise. Once we start to back potential as well as experience, we can create a sustainable ecosystem that will power growth in the tech and digital industries for years to come.

That is why Tech London Advocates campaigns to increase diversity in the tech sector. We hope to raise awareness about the scale of the problem, create an environment where tech jobs are more accessible and encourage the development of company cultures that allow employees to be themselves.

In short, construct an atmosphere where the opportunities within our industry are open to all.

Building a diverse industry doesn’t happen overnight. But, as businesses begin to tackle the problem and make real change, the tech sector has every chance of meeting the diversity challenge.

Tech London Advocates founder Russ Shaw is blogging for Startups.co.uk daily throughout London Tech Week 2017. Read Shaw’s thoughts on upcoming tech trends here or find out why London really is open for business here

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