Survey finds tech sector’s efforts at increasing gender and socioeconomic diversity are failing

A new nationwide survey from the Department for Opportunities has found that industry diversity initiatives are failing to encourage young people from low-income backgrounds to pursue tech careers.

Their latest survey of 648 students (aged 18-25), academic young people all on free school meals and/or first generation to go to university found:
  • Less than 20% of young people from underserved backgrounds believe the tech industry is welcoming to women and to those from low socioeconomic backgrounds
  • 82% think the industry needed to do more to encourage diversity
Survey respondents recommended the following solutions to tackle the challenge:
  • 85% Increased work experience in the sector
  • 70% Greater careers guidance
  • 59% Mentoring from those working in the sector
  • 45% Encouragement of STEM subjects at school
The findings come at a time of public scrutiny on government measures to level-up the UK in post-pandemic Britain. The Department for Opportunities is calling on tech businesses to play their part in the levelling-up agenda by:
  • Targeting diversity initiatives at schools with high levels of young people on free school meals
  • Prioritising work experience opportunities for young people from low-income backgrounds
  • Prioritising breaking the glass ceiling and the class ceiling by entering the Social Mobility Employer Index

“The tech industry is at risk of remaining male, pale and stale if it does not prioritise diversity. This research regretfully reveals that many young people fail to see the industry as a viable option. We know that tech is a hub of creativity, innovation and disruptive minds. This energy must now be channelled into breaking the glass ceiling and the class ceiling. Empty International Women’s Day gestures aren’t enough. We need action from the sector, starting with greater representation in our Social Mobility Employer Index.”

“Every day, technology expands existing opportunities and opens new doors. Yet too many young people who fail to see themselves represented in the industry find themselves without an accessible and equitable path to a career in technology. As this research proves, while we have made progress, we still have a long way to go in creating greater economic and social mobility for young people. Along with partners including the Social Mobility Foundation and others, we hope to work collaboratively to systemically eliminate barriers to pathways into a prosperous and innovative sector.”

Notes to editors

Available for interview and comment

Full Results

About the survey

A survey was conducted between 1st and 18th February 2022 and was issued to undergraduate students on the Social Mobility Foundation’s Aspiring Professionals Programme. All students on the programme are high academic achievers from low-income backgrounds, eligible for Free School Meals and/or first generation in their family to attend university.

Respondents: 648
  • Female: 72.1%
  • Male: 25.5%
  • Non-binary: 1.5%

We received responses across all 4 UK nations: England, Scotland, Wales and N.Ireland. The most common locations were:

  • London: 23.9%
  • Birmingham: 6.4%
  • Glasgow: 6.4%

Responses: About the Tech Industry

Q: How welcoming do you think the tech industry is?
For women:
  • Very welcoming: 4%
  • Quite welcoming: 14.8%
  • Not very welcoming: 35.6%
  • Not at all welcoming: 2.2%
  • Not sure: 43.4%
For those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds:
  • Very welcoming: 2.5%
  • Quite welcoming: 15.9%
  • Not very welcoming: 32.1%
  • Not at all welcoming: 2.5%
  • Not sure: 46.3%
Q: Do you think the tech sector needs to do more to encourage diversity?
Don't know

Responses: Barriers and Solutions

Q: Which of the following would you perceive to be a barrier to you entering a job in the tech industry? (multi-select)
  1. Lack of work experience (77.5%)
  2. Knowledge of the sector and roles within it (75.6%)
  3. Lack of personal connections in the tech industry (66.4%)
  4. Inability to find/access networking opportunities (39.8%)
  5. Lack of female role models (34.9%)
  6. Lack of jobs in the sector outside London (32.7%)
  7. Socioeconomic background (30.6%)
  8. Gender (25.2%)
  9. Ethnic background (17.7%)
  10. Disability (7.1%)
Q: What do you think would encourage young people into the tech industry? (multi-select)
  1. Increased work experience in the sector (84.6%)
  2. Greater careers guidance (70.1%)
  3. Mentoring from those working in tech (59%)
  4. Encouragement of STEM subjects at school (44.8%)
Free text response examples:
  • More knowledge about how tech industry connects to typically non-tech industries
  • Seeing the improved representation of ethnic diversity and female ambassadors for the industry.
  • Targeted STEM workshops for girls and low income students in Years 7-9
  • Knowledge or guidance that the insecurities or any imposter syndrome when entering circles like these based on academic knowledge is something that everyone struggles with
  • Greater awareness from a younger age of potential roles in tech and importance of tech workers in society (the same way doctors are understood as key jobs). Also demystification of coding as a ‘difficult’ skill
For additional information, please contact Katy Johnson, Communications Officer at the Social Mobility Foundation and Department for Opportunities.
E: [email protected] | T: 07841 577627