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June 20, 2024

Tech Talent Charter to close amid stalled diversity initiatives

Announcing its termination, group urges change as UK tech companies are “quiet quitting” stated D&I tagets

By Tech Monitor Staff

The Tech Talent Charter, established in 2015 to increase diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the UK tech sector is closing, warning urgent change is needed to avoid sliding back on D&I workforce gains made. The non-profit has announced it will cease operations in August.

Diversity paper chain
The Tech Talent Charter says D&I gains made in recent years have stalled or even reversed. (Image by Shutterstock)

The government-supported, industry-led membership group accounts for over 800 tech employers, from start-ups to multinationals, representing almost 250,000 tech workers. Its goal has been to see the UK’s tech sector become “a diverse and inclusive community where people from all backgrounds are welcomed and valued for their contributions”. The group offers its members access to measurement tools and D&I expertise, while gathering, curating, and distributing practices, techniques, and ideas from across industry to grow representation.

A stalling of momentum

Significant progress has been made in the nine years since launch. In 2015, women filled only 15% of tech roles in the UK. That figure now stands at 25% – and 29% among Tech Talent Charter signatories. The group has also been successful in creating many more data points for gauging and tracking the true state of diversity across the tech sector.

However, the Tech Talent Charter’s latest annual Diversity in Tech report, published in February, found that the sense of momentum built up over preceding years had stalled, with the tenor of discussion and scale of ambition markedly shifting.

“D&I strategies are becoming increasingly insular, initiatives are being shelved to prioritise other business goals, and more and more we hear that ‘D&I isn’t relevant because my company isn’t hiring’,” read the report. “Alongside this are countless stories from D&I role-holders and advocates who are battling for support from senior leaders as their teams are decimated, their processes eliminated by mergers and acquisitions or being forced to step back from voluntary efforts due to changing business attitudes and overburdened desks.”

Tech Talent Charter: A call to arms

The dissolution of Tech Talent Charter appears to be a direct response to this changing landscape. Rather than an opportunity to merely list its achievements, the announcement was framed as a cry for help.

“Against this backdrop, the Tech Talent Charter has made the incredibly difficult decision to close, and our board of directors has now voted to dissolve the organisation,” it read.

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“Our mission has always focused on amplifying the sector’s challenges and needs, and providing actionable steps for change. Now more than ever, we believe that we must draw attention to the current industry landscape challenges to ensure progress and to be the catalyst for the formation of new commitments, accountability, and efforts … Our decision to close is driven by the hope that it will amplify the need for renewed focus. We believe this inflection point is essential to refocusing efforts, refining methods, and driving greater commitment and investment at a systemic, industry, and regional level.”

This call to arms also follows a reported sharp decline in D&I levels amid entry-level technology positions in the US and the UK. In 2023, both witnessed a staggering two-thirds decrease in new recruit levels for women, with the US plummeting from 36% in 2022 to 12%; and the UK from 35% to 11%, according to research from Rockborne. The same study found that the proportion of entry-level black, Asian, and minority ethnic professionals entering the UK sector dropped from 42% in 2022 to 12% in 2023, marking a significant regression from the progress observed since 2020.

A pivotal moment for UK tech

“We are at a pivotal moment for the future of the UK’s tech sector,” said Tech Talent Charter co-CEO and co-founder Debbie Forster of the decision to shutter the organisation. “Great progress has been made but now too many companies are ‘quiet quitting’ D&I and there is real risk of going backward.”

“We hope our decision to close will create a point of reflection and inflection that will lead to greater commitment to drive real change across the sector. We believe this decision, while tough to make, is the right thing to do at a time when D&I needs a reset and a new approach to ensure the longevity of the UK tech economy.”

Read more: Call made to greatly increase investment into women-led UK tech ventures

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