Nearly 35% of the workforce in India's tech sector are women, compared to less than 18% in the UK. ESRC research stimulated tech industry engagement, launching a national Indian scorecard and informing a UK strategy for diversity in the tech sector.

Impacts

  • In partnership with NASSCOM the researchers developed the Women and IT Scorecard – India (2017 and 2018), which brings together research evidence on differences in participation rates between women and men. The scorecard also benchmarks these within an international context.
  • The research and scorecards were recognised globally across industry sectors, including references in McKinsey Global Institute reports.
  • The research team engaged directly with industry partners both in India and the UK, resulting in joint events and publications and raising industry awareness of gender issues. Partners included NASSCOM in India and TechUK in the UK.
  • Research findings on the role of industry /university partnerships in embedding gender equality in IT recruitment are now being incorporated into a new national strategy for increasing diversity in the UK technology sector. This is currently underdevelopment by the Institute of Coding, a government-funded consortium of over 30 universities and major IT businesses.
  • UK industry-organised dissemination workshops were held by Tata Consultancy Services and Elsevier; and a Women in Technology event hosted by the Industry and Parliament Trust was attended by businesses and parliamentarians, including the Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries.

About the research

Globally, the IT sector, especially in the industrial nations, is experiencing a decline in women in its workforce. In the UK less than 18% are women, which is below average for European nations according to the 2018 Women in Tech Index. In comparison, nearly 35% of the workforce in India are women, and the highest-ranking European nation is Bulgaria at 30%.

ESRC researchers carried out a two-year study to find out what lessons can be learned from India to increase the number of women entering the UK's IT sector. The Gender, Skilled Migration and IT project is the first ESRC-funded research to be conducted in association with NASSCOM, a not-for-profit industry body that represents India's £116 billion software and IT services sector. Led by Professor Parvati Raghuram with co-investigator Dr Clem Herman, both of the Open University, the research was carried out in the UK and India between 2016 and 2018.

As well as comparing the experiences of IT workers in India and the UK, the researchers also explored gender norms and best practice by gathering insights from migrant women and men who move between UK and India and have experience of working in both countries.

In the UK, the low recruitment of women to IT careers coupled with high attrition rates are seen as a major problem for the sector. Very few of the UK women interviewed had gone directly into an IT career, instead they had often graduated in other disciplines such as management or natural sciences. For many, the status of IT work was not a particular motivator, and they expressed less intrinsic passion for technology.

The Indian IT sector was found to offer career support, high status, reward and security and visible equality policies that attract women. The sector also undertakes high-profile campaigns and university campus recruitment; offers in-house leadership and management programmes; and invests in skills development to retain staff and keep a competitive edge.

“Addressing the UK shortage of women in IT requires that the sector not only offers benefits, but outperforms other competing sectors, and projects its gender-equality policies effectively through targeted campaigns,” says Professor Parvati Raghuram.