Encouraging inclusion in the tech industry

The tech industry’s ongoing diversity problem

“Elon Musk has ruined tech!” says my Ux Researcher friend at a social gathering earlier this year. His frustrations – shared by many in the tech industry – are in large part due to Musk’s alpha-macho persona and anti-woke tirades, regularly expressed on Twitter, the social network he now owns following his $44 billion purchase of the site back in October 2022.


Musk’s subsequent adoption of ‘hardcore’ working practices at Twitter, which require staff to work ‘long hours at high intensity’, adds significant kudos to his hypermasculine appeal, and further enrages tech industry professionals, who have for many years sought to end the sector’s ‘boys club’ perception, by encouraging greater diversity in the workforce, writes Andrew Openshaw, content specialist for Nigel Wright Group.


inclusion in tech


And while there has been some improvement in the number of women joining the industry in recent years, a recent report confirmed that still only 26% of UK tech employees are female, far below the average of 50% across all industries. Further, it’s common for women to join and then leave the sector due to a combination of burnout, gendered biases, and the toxic aspects of “bro culture”.


Studies by Deloitte, McKinsey and Harvard Business Review all highlight how diversity, and in particular gender diversity, can improve the bottom line. Tech firms are aware of this, and despite the prevailing issues outlined above, many remain committed to mirroring the successes of companies in other sectors by leveraging the power of a diverse workforce.


Diversity is already an enabler of innovation within the tech industry. Tech clients tell us that the most successful Scrum teams, for example, are usually ones that are open to different perspectives and ways of thinking. Often they include software engineers, QAs, data analysts, product and ops specialists, as well as account and business development experts.


If tech companies can take this same logic to build teams of different genders, ethnicities and ages too, then research suggests they will benefit even more from innovation and original thinking. Getting to this point, however, requires creating an inclusive workplace culture to attract and retain a diverse workforce. It’s this focus on inclusion, in fact,  that turbocharges diversity efforts.


Towards an inclusive workplace culture


Inclusion is how we describe efforts to create an environment where everyone feels accepted and valued. Inclusion in the workplace only occurs when people are satisfied that their differences and perspectives are respected. This is evident in their level of engagement and willingness to interact, connect and collaborate with colleagues.


Time and again, diversity strategies (e.g. hiring diverse talent) fail when marginalised groups of people continue to feel excluded at work. This is because focusing on diversity alone doesn’t account for individual perceptions of working life. When issues around inequality persist in diverse companies it soon leads to the development of a toxic working environment.


In our Equality, Diversity And Inclusion In The Workplace Report 2022, we outline 5 key areas where businesses can improve the employee experience to encourage a more inclusive workplace culture.


  1. Make inclusion integral to the whole business


Companies wishing to truly integrate inclusive practices into their overall business strategy need to ensure those practices become embedded across the organisation. Taking each area separately and evaluating it with a fresh pair of eyes is a helpful approach. This should never be the purview of HR alone, however, but involve individuals from across the business.


Organisations should therefore establish cross-functional working groups to review different areas from an inclusion perspective. Some of the areas to scrutinise include but are not limited to the treatment of customers, marketing campaigns and promotional choices, company values, policies and procedures, performance reviews and hiring processes.


  1. Use employee perceptions to shape strategy


Those involved in shaping strategy should begin to understand individual as well as organisational viewpoints and use them to formulate ideas. With that in mind, all employees should be allowed to inform inclusion strategy development from the outset. Organisations can utilise a combination of data collection and employee networks to canvas opinions.


When determining how inclusive an organisation is, employee research must focus on understanding their sense of belonging and perceptions of fairness at work. Organisations should also provide avenues for continuous feedback and track data over time. This process should leave employees feeling empowered in terms of their agency to affect change.


  1. Ensure leaders become role models


Research tells us that a key catalyst for driving inclusion at work is when leaders act as role models for the right kinds of behaviours. Even if an organisation has a diverse leadership structure, leaders who don’t value difference – something which is evident through their words and actions – will create a working environment where certain employees will feel like they don’t belong.


Education and training must be ongoing for the leadership group so that behaviours and positive sentiments toward inclusion become implicit in the culture. Line managers should also be briefed to execute all related policies and practices. And all those at the senior level should be held accountable for any inclusion objectives established by the business.


  1. Invest in training and development


With the leadership on board, businesses must then agree to invest in inclusion training and development for the whole organisation. This should become incorporated into the whole employee journey. A mixture of formal sessions run by specialist organisations, as well as on-the-job training through observation and informal conversations is advised.


Eliminating unconscious biases should be a primary objective of any training endeavour. These are explicit or implicit prejudices that people develop over time due to socialisation, media exposure and other subjective experiences. An inclusive culture will only emerge when all employees learn to manage their unconscious biases and respect the similarities and differences of others.


  1. Adopt inclusive systems for talent attraction


As already discussed, increasing diversity doesn’t address barriers to inclusion. Inclusion therefore must be a primary consideration during the talent attraction process right through to the interview and onboarding stages. Without an inclusive recruitment strategy, businesses risk missing out on the full benefits of workplace diversity and achieving an inclusive environment.


Organisations can ensure that hiring processes are inclusive by writing succinct and easier-to-understand job adverts, using gender-neutral and other inclusive language, and incorporating inclusive imagery. Other simple actions such as stating the company’s inclusive vision in job adverts and other career opportunity materials will help attract and retain more people.



Andrew Openshaw is a U.K.-based writer and content specialist for Nigel Wright Group, the leading and largest professional recruitment agency in the North of England. Since 2011, he has written extensively on a broad range of HR and recruitment trends.