Against a backdrop of rapidly changing social consciousness, Black Lives Matter has entered into the mainstream narrative, replacing the more placid Unity in Diversity credo that no longer pierced the noise of our newsfeeds. In the global wave of calls for social and political change, many organizations, individuals and cross-cultural movements came out in strong support of #BLM, by joining marches standing in solidarity of a cause that has given a new name to an old problem.
The numbers don’t lie, and they tell us that we’re failing dismally. In spite of the well documented benefits of creating a diverse workforce, there has been little to no progress to realize any significant change, especially in the global technology sector. At the current rate of transformation, it is unlikely that our young daughters and children from minority ethnic groups will have a seat at the boardroom table of a tech company in the next 15 to 20 years.
While the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of technology around the world, women and ethnic minorities in tech have no better opportunities than they did five years ago. It defies logic that these contributors to the economy and sources of skilled labor are excluded from fueling – and leading – the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
In 2019, the World Economic Forum stated that gender parity will not be attained for the next 100 years at the current rate of change. And, for the tech sector, the WEF Global Gender Gap Report 2020 benchmarked the presence of women as follows:
- Data and AI roles: 26%
- Engineering roles: 15%
- Cloud computing roles: 12%
- Automation engineers: 12%
- Android developers: 13%
- Robotics engineers: 18%
- Cyber security specialists: 19%
At the leadership level, it’s even harder for women and ethnic minorities to crack the code to the boardroom. In Europe, for every female executive in the tech sector, there are 12 men. Less than 1% of European tech founders are women, which is unsurprising if for every $100 invested by venture capitalists in tech in 2019, only $8 went to funding all-female teams. The presence of minorities currently in leadership positions is negligible, with less than 2% of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies from an Asian heritage, and only three black CEOs.
I believe it’s time for an honest conversation about what is holding us back – particularly in Europe – to embrace the opportunities offered by diversifying tech workforces. Social consciousness movements such as #BLM and #metoo have pushed forward the debate on rooting out systemic prejudice and recognizing inequality. But, what will it take for the tech sector to move the diversity and inclusion agenda forward, without waiting for 100 years to close the gap?