MAYOR OF London Sadiq Khan has launched an initiative aimed at tackling the underrepresentation of young Black men in London’s thriving technology sector.
The initiative, called the Tech WIN Design Lab 3 is part of Khan’s wider Workforce Integration Network (WIN) programme aimed at increasing the number of young Black men in the capital’s key industries.
Statistics show young Black men make up just five per cent of London’s growing, technology workforce, which employs nearly 600,000 people according to recent figures. The sector is also thought to be worth £56 billion to the UK economy.
However Khan has expressed concern that Black men aged 16-24 are not part of this growing sector – according to the GLA’s Voices of the underrepresented report published in 2020 this group are the most likely to be out of work – with almost one in three unemployed compared to just 15 per cent of young white men.
CLEAR FOCUS: Ashley Ainsley, co-founder of non profit organisation Colorintech says the barriers facing young black men in the workforce have been ignored for too long
Other research has highlighted the fact although there has been growing demand for tech roles in the UK in recent years there is still a large gender and ethnicity gap within tech companies. There has also been a lack of investment given to diverse founders.
Tech WIN Design Lab 3 will bring businesses together to critique recruitment practices and explore issues around retention and explore the causes of underrepresentation in their workforces and the sector as a whole.
Among the companies taking part in the initiative are Dell Technologies, Informa Tech, Ford Motor Company and Profusion. These businesses will be supported as part of a 12-month programme to build an action plan to recruit, retain and progress more young Black men in their businesses.
The action plan will focus on areas such as recruitment, supply chains, workplace culture, data and progression. The programme will also hold workshops, one-to-one sessions, data collection, supply chain assessments, and networking and recruitment opportunities. The move has been welcomed by campaigners who have been vocal on the issue of lack of diversity in tech.
Someone’s life chances should never be limited by their family’s background or the colour of their skin. This new initiative will give tech and digital businesses better insight into the role they can play to address inequalities, improve diversity and create industry-wide change
Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London
Ashleigh Ainsley, co-founder of Colorintech, a non-profit focused on Diversity and Inclusion in tech industry, welcomed the initiative but said there was a need for the initiative to be broader.
He told The Voice: “It’s refreshing to see an intervention targeted at a very specific problem. If you’re a young black man, you are just more likely to be unemployed, regardless of whether or not you went to university, where you grew up, or what grades you got while at school.
“So as a young black man myself, this is an issue I obviously care about more than more than most. But, I think it’s a fair thing to ask, ‘what about some of the other disadvantaged groups in society?”
He added: “If you’re a young Indian woman, or a young black woman it doesn’t mean your problems are any less. But generally I welcome the fact that someone focused in on this issue. Young black men are at the bottom of everything and for too long, nobody has focused on this.”
Speaking about the initiative Khan said: “It’s simply not right that young, talented and ambitious young Black Londoners are not being given the opportunity to prosper in the capital’s thriving tech sector.
“The impact of the pandemic has reinforced why the work of the Workforce Integration Network is so important. We have already successfully supported 20 large businesses in the construction and infrastructure sectors, representing a combined workforce of over 100,000, to remove barriers holding young Black Londoners back, and I’m pleased that we are now building on this work with more action.”
ACTION PLAN: Mayor of London Sadiq Khan
He added: “I’m determined to ensure no Londoner is left behind as we recover from the pandemic. Someone’s life chances should never be limited by their family’s background or the colour of their skin. This new initiative will give tech and digital businesses better insight into the role they can play to address inequalities, improve diversity and create industry-wide change.”
Russ Shaw CBE, Founder of Tech London Advocates and Global Tech Advocates, said: “We have consistently encouraged businesses to take meaningful action on diversity commitments made following events in 2020.
“Our advocate survey earlier this year found 53% of black tech leaders felt companies had failed to make significant D&I changes – making it clear that much more work needs to be done in opening doors to a more diverse range of talent.”
Shaw continued: “London is one of the most diverse cities in the world, and we need to do better to ensure that its thriving tech sector is representative of the whole population.”