Identifying the “Missing 10%” and “Missing 34%” in the Tech Field: A Strategy for Active Listening

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em360

The digital skills gap is one of the most concerning issues for the technology industry. This
issue is characterised by the stark contrast between the digital skills possessed by the
workforce and the insufficient supply of workers equipped with the necessary expertise to
occupy relevant positions.

The rapid evolution of digital technologies has outpaced the availability of skilled
professionals capable of effectively implementing, using, and maintaining these
technologies.

According to techUK, a staggering 57 per cent of tech companies in the UK believe that the
current shortage in the digital field is one of the most significant barriers to achieving their
growth plans. Similarly, recent reports indicate that a significant 92 per cent of organisations view digital skills as vital for success.

Increasing diversity in recruitment and then upskilling successful candidates can be more
efficient than hiring for a specific skillset; in fact, it is vital for bridging the digital skills gap.
This approach holds numerous benefits for businesses, promoting a more inclusive culture,
fostering innovation, supporting long-term talent development and creating a cost-effective solution.

To do this, it is important to think about the missing 10 per cent of BAME employees and
the missing 34 per cent of women in the technology industry, finding a way to listen to their voices and understand how they think and feel about working in technology.

Through understanding how different demographics feel about technology careers, it is
possible to intervene and adapt the recruitment process or advertising to promote
inclusivity.

The missing 10% and 34%

Despite efforts to address the issue, minority groups within the IT field continue to be
underrepresented.

Estimates vary regarding the proportion of the technology workforce in the UK that belong
to black, Asian, or minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds. According to ColorinTech.org, in
collaboration with PwC and The Guardian in 2019, only 4 per cent of the technology
workforce constitutes BAME individuals, contrasting starkly with the 14.5 per cent of the
BAME population in the UK.

Furthermore, data from the government in 2019 indicates that although the number of
women within the technology sector had seen an increase, this growth was mirrored by an overall rise in the number of individuals in the technology industry. Consequently, the
percentage of women in technology remained relatively stable at 16 per cent over the
preceding decade.

So, the ‘10 per cent’ refers to the discrepancy between the BAME population's
representation (14.5 per cent) and the BAME workforce in technology (4 per cent). Similarly,
the ‘34 per cent’ signifies the difference between the female population's proportion (50
per cent) and the percentage of women in the technology sector (16 per cent).

How to engage with the missing percentages

Although it is not possible to directly engage with those who are missing, we can still listen
to and engage with voices from the same marginalised groups. At FDM, where
approximately 100,000 individuals apply annually for technology careers, it is possible to
glean insights through inquiring about candidates’ feelings during the application process.

This endeavour takes shape through two primary approaches. Firstly, by incorporating
direct inquiries into the interview procedure. Secondly, video interviews provide additional
data illuminating the diverse perspectives of individuals belonging to various groups.

Through the analysis the collective body of text generated by applicants, patterns are able
to emerge. Though the data undergoes anonymisation prior to analysis, the diversity
markers are retained. This retention enables potential identification of emotional trends,
topic clusters, and patterns specific to various applicant groups.

To provide a sense of the voluminous data at our disposal for this research, our repository
encompasses roughly 10 million words spanning until the close of 2022, with continual
growth. This volume corresponds to around 22,000 to 25,000 pages of A4, brimming with
discussions concerning technology and technology-oriented careers.

How to ‘listen’ to 10 million words

Though AI has recently received some bad press amidst concerns of job losses to AI, this
process is all about utilising the positive power of AI.
For example, employing machine learning mechanisms to deduce the true number of
underrepresented individuals within the datasets, for example deriving gender from given
names.

Also, using AI to identify clusters of subjects and then seeing how prolific these clusters are among specific demographics, as well as using language analysis tools to gauge the tone and mood underlying the expressions of particular groups. This outlines FDM’s strategy for actively engaging with the content of the datasets.

The Road Ahead

Though its early stages, the preliminary data collection is highly promising. Initial
evaluations using certain AI engines have unveiled the dataset's richness and begun to
unveil some interesting patterns.

Ultimately the goal is to unearth themes that prompt us to revolutionise how the
technology industry engages with the public, fostering greater participation and sustained
involvement of underrepresented groups in the application process and the broader
profession.

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