"The time for talking is gone - the time to act to move the dial is now."
Debbie Forster MBE, the Tech Talent Charter's (TTC) CEO was adamant this morning that the UK tech sector has a long way to go to accurately reflect the society it serves.
The TTC is a UK non-profit organisation focused on tackling what many pick out as the industry's most pressing challenge - the struggle to find enough of the right talent.
It campaigns to get tech firms across the UK to sign up to the Tech Talent Charter, to ultimately address inequality in the sector and drive inclusion and diversity in a practical and measurable way.
CPI was at its launch, three years ago. Since then, over 350 signatories from Cisco, HP and Lenovo to Softcat, Insight and Phoenix Software have joined the cause.
It's free to sign up, the only proviso being that firms have to share their employment and diversity data.
"The good news is that we're ahead of the game nationally," Forster said.
"Across our signatories, women hold 24 per cent of technical roles compared with 16 per cent UK-wide.
"It ain't 50 per cent, so we're not there yet but we're on the way."
And it is this slow pace of change that was a cause of frustration for several at the TTC's annual report launch in the Gherkin building in central London this morning.
Among the channel's heavy-hitters were co-signatory Russ Shaw, founder of Global Tech Advocates - a network of 8,500 tech leaders and entrepreneurs across 50 countries.
His view was one of anger, stemming from exasperation.
"Over £13bn (€15.19bn) was invested into the tech sector in 2019 [in the UK]. However, a sector that is 80 per cent white men is not sustainable.
"And I am frankly angry that the numbers have not shifted over the past few years.
"Organisations like the Tech Talent Charter are doing phenomenal work to give us great tactical recommendations. If we do not fix this problem we will see a train wreck coming in the years ahead."
He added that this should not just be an issue of ethics, but one of cold business-sense.
"If you're saying that growth is your top priority, it's not rocket science; you need the talent to grow and develop services and products."
The Government's endorsement
Also present, was the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Baroness Morgan of Cotes.
Morgan referenced the fact that it's the start of a new decade to urge the tech sector to see 2020 as the year to initiate "real change".
"The charter is a fantastic initiative," she said. "Thank you to all of you who have signed up, and if there is anybody who has yet to do so, please make it one of you New Year's resolutions."
What is helping?
So what is helping move the dial on attracting talent from a wider pool of potential?
The TTC's researchers pulled out three factors from the data that show a correlation with companies who have a diverse workforce.
The first factor is whether or not companies have women shortlists at the initial recruitment stage. Only 14 per cent of signatories have one, TTC claims. However, those that do have a higher-than-average number of women in technical roles. The TTC noted that 24 per cent of signatories plan to bring in these targets later this year.
Secondly, whether or not there is a diversity and inclusion strategy (D&I). Sixty-five per cent of signatories have one, with an additional 25 planning to have one in 2020.
And thirdly, having a retraining or returners programme. Forster noted that, as graduates make up a small pool of potential talent, there is strong anecdotal evidence to show that retraining those already in the workforce is an effective way of getting a wider array of talent through the door, and creating a supportive culture that helps with retention; another key recruitment challenge.
"Those that do this are getting ahead," Forster said.
However, Forster and several signatories noted with disappointment that 49 per cent of signatories told the TTC that they do not have such a programme, and have no plans to implement one over the next year.
"A focus on culture is important," Forster added.
"Because you can't just have one magic bullet…. And tough targets drive behaviours."
Why inclusion matters
One of the TTC's early signatories was HP.
For HP's UK&I MD George Brasher, remaining one is simply a smart business decision.
"What gets measured, gets done," he said.
"We're very proud of the fact we have the most diverse board of a technology company here.
"And when people ask me why we were a founding signatory, I say it's about winning. And what I mean by that is the only way this industry will thrive is if we attract the best and brightest. And frankly, while I'm pleased that we've gone from an industry average of 17 per cent being women to 24 per cent, we have a long way to go."
No need to reinvent the wheel
TTC CEO Debbie Forster ended the event with an appeal to optimism and collaboration.
"What I'm telling companies is: look, you don't have to reinvent the wheel.
"Our toolkit really exemplifies that. All of our content comes from our members. We have mapped over 400 great inclusion initiatives, regionally across the country.
"So the open playbook is separated by themes. How to create a great culture, how to do retraining, how to improve recruitment, volunteering in schools - and in it we are outlining those key strategies and signposting what people can access, for free."
She added: "This is a numbers game problem - so let's look at alternate routes for talent to get in."
Some say performance, others say money but it may be systems and processes that carry the day
Former Trustmarque boss will help grow AI and IoT practices in new role
The French channel giant is expected to close its 2019 with growth in operating profits, as cost-cutting efforts deliver €30m in savings
Champion success, highlight innovation and outpacing the market in CPI's New York MSP Awards 2020