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This year’s Be-IT Research Project: Sexism, Diversity & Inclusion

This blog from Nikola Kelly, MD of Be-IT, and Alastair Blair, thePotentMix, introduces their summer research project which explores the current opinions on sexism and gender diversity in the IT industry, and the degree to which these have changed in recent years.

If you were with me yesterday, you’ll recall that I re-published one of the first ever blogs that appeared on the Be-IT website, way back in 2014.  It dealt with the perennial problem of the lack of women in IT: a subject we have written about consistently (with both male and female colleagues publishing their thoughts) over the years.  Partly as a result of this, we commissioned a substantial piece of research in the summer of 2017 into the issue of sexism in IT.  As I noted yesterday, the results of this were widely reported in the media.  The key findings from 2017 were as follows:

  • Only 28% of IT bosses were female: 72% were men. 
  • Over two-thirds of our female and male respondents worked in an environment where women made up less than one third of all staff.
  • Over half (54%) of female and 48% of male respondents work in an environment where women are less than a quarter of all staff.
  • Only 12% of women worked in an environment where females were in the majority. Fewer than 7% of men worked in an environment where women were in the majority.
  • Virtually half (49%) of our female respondents believed they had been discriminated against at some time in their careers because they are a woman.
  • Only 3% of men said they have seen a situation where a man was given a job for which they thought a woman candidate was better qualified.
  • In contrast 29% of our female respondents say they have seen this.
  • Only 3% of men said the workplace provides better facilities for men than women. 19% of women said this is the case.
  • Some 6% of men said they had seen a woman being overlooked for promotion. 45% of women said they had experienced this.
  • 33% of men reported that they have seen men being better paid than women. 48% of women said this was their experience.
  • 18% of women had taken further action to raise issues of discrimination
  • Nearly two-thirds (65%) of women said that they, or a female colleague, had been treated in a way they did not like. 
  • Over one third (35%) of women say they, or a female colleague, have been subject to unacceptable sexual harassment. In contrast, over 85% of men said they had not seen this happen.
  • 42% of women believe they were expected to put up with sexually explicit “banter” in the workplace. Conversely, 20% of male respondents said women have to accept such behaviour if they want to succeed.
  • 20% of men admit they, or any other male colleague, had discriminated against a woman during their career.
  • Just over one fifth (21%) of our female respondents said that they had seen men discriminated against by women, yet over one third (35%) of men said they had seen this happen.

In addition, there were a number of comments from female respondents about the way they felt they were treated, including this: “My work/decisions frequently checked with a man, even if he is junior or not in my area. It seems a penis is the qualification needed to check if I am correct.” From the male side, chauvinism was, in a few instances, very much the order of the day, as evidenced by this response from a male engineer, “Oh dear… Women simply need to take more interest in technical or engineering when they’re growing up.”

Since we published these results, much has changed in the world of work, especially in the last year. While I am hopeful that at least some of the sexism we reported in 2017 has reduced, we now have a raft of other issues to deal with, almost all of which have the capacity to provoke strong, often contrasting emotions. The moment you step into the world of diversity, equity and inclusion, with its focus on issues such as transgenderism, critical race theory and intersectionality, then you’re not so much treading on eggshells as playing hopscotch in a minefield while wearing a blindfold. 

However, that is the task we handed to our research company.

Nikola Kelly, MD, Be-IT Projects, Be-IT Resourcing

I have worked with Be-IT for many years now, conducting their varying research projects since 2015.  The 2017 survey of Sexism in IT was one of the most successful of these, yet as Nikola Kelly, Be-IT’s MD, indicated in her blog yesterday, the issues around sex, gender and equality, diversity and inclusion in general have grown arms and legs in recent years.  So much so in fact, that it’s a potentially risky undertaking to investigate what people who work in IT think about them.  The danger of offending someone with the wrong word or nuance is very high nowadays, so with the rider that if this year’s Be-IT research project offends you then I’m sorry, here is what we are going to be investigating over the next few months.

Firstly, we are going to do a brief follow-up to the  2017 sexism study and investigate the extent to which the attitudes uncovered then have changed.  This, the first part of this year’s survey, will reprise some of the questions asked in 2017 and we’ll see what, if anything, has altered.

Secondly, in the more controversial areas of gender, race etc. there are, in my opinion, two, inter-related areas worth exploring. I would like to find out the extent to which recruiters have adopted new approaches to recruitment that try to tackle perceived injustice, discrimination and bias by introducing (amongst other things): targets for diversity that are stated publicly, unconscious bias training, blind CV’s for applications, removal of all male/female pronouns, bespoke D&I webpages, etc. – and I’d also like them to tell us, honestly and anonymously, what their own views are.

On the other side of the recruitment equation, it will be interesting to see whether what appears to be HR’s enthusiasm for such things is reciprocated and, perhaps more interesting yet, whether any reciprocal enthusiasm varies by age/gender and even if it is as a result of peer pressure rather than genuine sentiment.

Finally, one area that is almost totally neglected in amongst the media coverage of gender et al is the increasingly important one of age. I say increasing importance because, although IT is mainly a young person’s industry, time’s winged chariot waits for no-one and as the industry ages it will be interesting to see whether the millennials are cast aside as Gen Z and its successors climb the career ladder or whether a more equitably balanced (one might say, truly diverse) age profile comes to be the norm in the tech sector.  

You can complete the survey here; please share this with your colleagues and friends working throughout the IT/recruitment industries.  

Thank you, in advance, for taking the time to complete the survey.  I have no idea what the results will show, but they will be interesting.

Alastair Blair, thePotentMix

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