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Narrow talent pools preventing businesses from improving tech diversity

Businesses are struggling to improve the diversity of their tech teams at entry level due to a continuing prioritisation of candidates’ academic prestige over their potential, according to new research.

Wiley Edge’s new ‘Diversity in Tech’ report revealed that 85% of businesses currently have trouble sourcing a diverse range of tech talent, with 55% stating that they struggle to recruit entry level tech employees from underrepresented groups in particular compared with 28% for mid-level positions and 17% for senior roles.

However, the research also showed that many businesses are still recruiting entry level talent from a very narrow pool. Of those businesses surveyed, 21% said that they exclusively hire graduates from top universities, and a further 39% said that they are more likely to hire graduates from those institutions. Only 28% said that they consider applications from all universities equally, with even fewer (8%) stating that they consider all types of higher education qualifications.

Becs Roycroft, senior director at Wiley Edge, commented: “For some of the UK’s largest and best-known companies, competition for graduate and other entry level roles can be extremely fierce. It’s clear that this has resulted in many being extremely selective about the applicants they accept and consequently hiring a disproportionate number of candidates with prestige bias who they assume are automatically the most qualified.”

According to the research, hiring predominantly from top tier universities in fact makes it more difficult for businesses to fill entry level and graduate technology roles.

Around a third (35%) of businesses that consider all candidates equally said they struggle to recruit entry level software engineers, compared with 62% of businesses who focus their recruitment on more prestigious universities. Similarly, businesses with narrow talent pools were 23% more likely to struggle to recruit entry level data scientists, and 28% more likely to find it difficult to source entry level cyber security specialists.

Becs continued: “With it shown that many of the UK’s most traditionally prestigious universities have their own struggle to improve diversity, it will be almost impossible for businesses to improve the diversity of their junior tech employees while only accepting graduates from these institutions.

“In order to achieve greater diversity at a junior level, businesses must actively work to widen their talent pool, publicising their roles to a wider variety of people and encouraging them to apply. As an additional benefit, they should find that doing so will also help them in overcoming the recruitment challenges posed by the ongoing digital skills shortage.”