Tackling diversity needs to start by widening the talent pool and empowering people from non-tech backgrounds to re-train according to Kristi Riordan, chief operating officer at Flatiron School.

A year ago, Billie Simmons had started to wonder how different her life might be if she learned to code. It could mean a change in career away from digital marketing and a chance to capitalise on London’s appetite for data scientists and UX/UI designers.

Simmons’ subsequent career jump to nab one of these coveted roles isn’t a standalone case. We meet many people who are making the career move into technology and it’s obvious why. In a world driven by data, London’s rapidly transforming and scaling businesses remain desperately short of tech talent.

The potential employment growth in these areas reflects the greater demand for people with the coding ability and digital skills to drive the future of companies.

The European Commission has predicted that more than 100,000 new data-related jobs will be created in the region by 2020. By the same year IBM predicts that data science will account for 28% of all digital jobs. Mitigating the skills gaps will be a huge challenge and tackling diversity in the sector will be at the heart of it.

If we look back to 1995, women made up roughly 37% of the computing workforce. However, recent figures released from Girls Who Code and Accenture, show that this number has now dropped to around 24%. If nothing is done to diversify tech’s talent pipeline, it’s predicted to fall to 22% by 2025.

The good news is that the sector is increasingly looking to eliminate bias and increase diversity in this workforce through skills-based hiring, opening up the sector to people of various backgrounds and experience levels.

It isn’t just companies that stand to benefit. Billie Simmons started her career change by applying for an Out in Tech scholarship (a not-for-profit uniting the LGBTQ+ tech community). After her application was successful, she enrolled in Flatiron School’s signature 15-week Software Engineering Immersive programme at the London campus, which provides deferred tuition fees and dedicated career services.

Just five weeks after graduating, Billie landed a job with Barclays Techstars as a technical associate, assisting startups in building their initial ideas. Alongside this, these skills have given Billie the opportunity to pursue a personal passion. She is continuing to develop an app she built which helps transgender people access safe services such as doctors, beauticians and clothing stores via a reviewing system – her final school project.

Across the UK, coding bootcamps are helping people transition from all walks and stages of life into careers in tech. We need to hold these examples up as successful models that can encourage others to follow. At Flatiron School we also run partnerships with Women in Tech, Code Bar Communications and Colour in Tech as part of a plan to increase access to tech.

Tackling diversity needs to start by widening the talent pool and empowering people from non-tech backgrounds to retrain. Education used to be the best investment one could make and with technical careers providing a huge economic opportunity for society, it can be again.

 

Flatiron School has provided over $11m in scholarships to help expand access to coding education for those underrepresented in tech, including women, people of colour, LGBTQ+ and low-income students.