The Sutton Trust have collaborated with the Bridge Group and eleven partnering employers to understand the socio-economic background of those working in tech roles and/or the tech sector. While gender is still considered to be the primary diversity challenge in tech, the latest Bridge Group research shows that the tech workforce is unrepresentative of the UK workforce with respect to socio-economic background.

The study analysed survey responses from over 3,400 employees in tech roles and 27 in-depth interviews. It should be noted that the majority of responses from tech employees came from one large professional services firm.

Amongst our key findings:

  • Analysis of tech roles across the firms participating in this study found that the socio-economic background of tech employees is comparable to some traditional professions (such as journalism): 67% come from professional/managerial backgrounds and 21% attended independent or fee-paying schools
  • Tech employees in this study were highly educated and international: 87% had completed a degree and 34% had completed most of their secondary school studies outside the UK.
  • Interviewees identified misconceptions and stereotypes around the tech sector as the main factors contributing to unequal access. They believe there is a widespread misconception that tech roles require hard technical skills, such as programming, which may discourage (young) people from aspiring to a career in tech.
  • It is not necessarily ‘who you know’ which facilitates access to the tech sector, but rather being aware of the breadth of tech roles, and more generally ‘how the sector works’. Limited science/technology capital contributes to unequal access to the tech sector.

Dr Marianne Blattès, senior researcher at the Bridge Group:

“This research has illustrated the complexity of the tech landscape. Unlike other professions where it is obvious what you need to study (e.g. to become a doctor you study medicine) the pathway to a career in tech is often unclear, haphazard and informed by popular/media discourses. As a result, those who are in the know have better chances of accessing tech roles and have greater awareness of the range of careers which exist in tech. So far the focus has largely been on getting more women into tech, however, socio-economic background, ethnicity, age, disability and other diversity characteristics also come into play. An exclusive focus on gender means additional challenges may be overlooked. Intersectionality matters.”

James Turner, CEO of the Sutton Trust, said:

“It is clear that more needs to be done to understand the make-up of the tech sector and to make social mobility a priority within it. As a well-paid and rapidly growing area, a career in tech offers great prospects for social mobility – so long as young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds can access it in the first place. As a starting point, we need to support young people to understand the many different types of careers within the tech industry and the skills that companies want.”

The summary report is available here, the full report has been shared with participating organisations.

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