How has furlough changed the tech job market?
Research released by NTT DATA UK, a global consulting and IT services, reveals men are more than twice as likely as women to embark on a new career in the tech industry if they cannot return to their existing employment once the furlough scheme ends.
The findings from a survey of furloughed workers suggest that the technology sector faces significant obstacles in attracting female talent: 39% of women admitted no interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) compared with 26% of men.
The overall picture for UK tech is certainly positive. The technology industry was the most popular destination for furloughed workers considering a career change. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, Tech Nation estimated that the digital tech industry was growing six times faster than any other sector. The significant expansion of the digital economy over the last 12 months has only accelerated this trend.
However, as NTT DATA UK’s research reveals, interest in moving into the tech industry is not consistent among all groups. Younger people showed more interest in the sector than older age groups; 69% of those considering moving into tech were under the age of 35. Geographical divides were also clear. Most of those considering a career in tech were from London (26%), closely followed by the south east of England (17%).
Gender is a particularly clear-cut watershed for a career in the tech industry. A quarter of men surveyed indicated that they were considering moving into the tech industry while less than 10% of women were weighing such a move. While the tech industry was the most popular choice for men, women indicated greater preference for the healthcare industry (16% showed interest in this sector) and education (15%). After the tech industry, men reported interest in careers in civil service and government (13%) and in the manufacturing industry (12%).
The gender divide persisted when it came to learning skills associated with the tech industry. Only 5% of women surveyed were learning STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) skills while on furlough compared to 11% of men. The gap was particularly wide in programming and computing skills: 9% of women reported improving their abilities in this area during furlough, compared to 22% of men. More popular upskilling options for women when on furlough included communications skills (18%) and language skills (17%).
Denzil Pudota, Vice President of Enterprise Solutions, Cloud & Managed Services at NTT DATA UK, said: “Diversity is essential for the success of all sectors. For technology in particular, diversity in the workforce is like gold dust. Teams made up of individuals from a range of different backgrounds bring a diversity of perspectives to an organisation, sparking innovation and change that are the foundations of business success. It is essential for the tech industry to keep striving to attract talented, diverse individuals at all levels of an organisation, from the company board right through to entry-level positions; all will be invaluable role models and inspire the next generation to believe that a tech career is possible for someone like them.”
Racial diversity in tech
Many recent studies have pointed to racial diversity as a key problem for the tech sector. Hired’s UK Tech Workplace Equality Report found that only 3% of the UK’s tech workers are black, while 17% are Asian and 6% are of mixed ethnicity. Black people are heavily under-represented in the industry, especially in London where 13% of the population identifies as black, but the proportion of tech workers remains at 3%.
Yet, NTT DATA’s research found that the proportion of people considering moving into the tech industry was fairly consistent across different ethnic backgrounds. In fact, those from non-white backgrounds showed marginally more interest in the sector. 18% of those surveyed who were black, African, Caribbean or black British reported considering a career in tech. So did 19% of people of mixed ethnicity and 25% of Asian or British Asian people. This compared to 15% of white respondents.
Pudota added: “Diversity is a multi-layered issue that requires a considered and nuanced approach. On race in tech for example, whilst our research highlights that lack of interest is seemingly not a significant problem, other barriers – including in recruitment and career progression – clearly exist.
“The industry must keep raising its ambition to ensure its workforce represents the customers and clients they serve. Firms must connect with a diverse pool of talent, nurturing the digital skills that the economy will rely upon over the next decade and beyond. NTT DATA’s Tech Academy is leading the way here, attracting candidates from different genders, ethnicities and geographies to learn the skills to set them on out on the path for a career in tech.”