Friday 20 September 2019

The diversity issue that is overlooked in the tech sector

Alice Murray- Independent Jobs

The tech industry has a glaring diversity problem. That’s no secret. It is estimated that 83% of tech executives are white. Only 6 -7% of technical careers are filled by women, while 40% of tech professionals who identify as LGBT believe sexual discrimination exists in the workplace.

These statistics are quite frankly, terrifying. But one issue that seems to be constantly overlooked is the lack of diversity when it comes to location.

Around the world, the tech industry is focused on a handful of pockets like San Francisco, Dublin, London and Toronto. Big cities with infrastructure and masses of talent.

Of course, there are plenty of downsides, soaring rent prices, congestion, overcrowding and a saturated market.

If we really want to diversify the tech scene in Ireland and abroad then we need to branch out of the major cities and begin to build tech hubs in more affordable areas. Thankfully, the movement is already gaining ground.

Ireland

Dublin has for a long time been seen as the tech capital of the Emerald Isle, however, the pull of cheaper housing and an untapped labour market has brought many companies out of the pale in recent years.

According to data from TechIreland, Cork is producing the most tech start-ups. Out of the 142 companies that are based there, 26 are led by women. But it’s not just the city that is benefiting.

Rural areas like West Cork have seen initiatives like The Sneem Digital Hub and The Ludgate Hub drive talent and businesses to the area.

Limerick may have fewer tech companies than Cork but, in 2017, it raised more funding. The city is shaking off its past reputation and embracing its budding tech sector which is mostly comprised of green energy, IoT and medtech firms.

Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way has also seen a rise in tech investment over recent years. Galway has become a popular destination for tech startups. In fact, 8 of the world’s top ten medtech companies are based in the county. The Portershed innovation hub has also been a key development for the area.

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England

London is and always will be the number one city for tech in the UK. However, other cities are starting to fight back.

Manchester is quickly gaining a reputation as a digital hub. The city is already in the top 20 European Digital City Index and with Manchester City Council awarding two £2 million grants to establish tech hubs it’s not hard to see why.

Leeds is quietly nipping at Manchester’s heels. The city is home to 314 startups. Leeds University backed SPARK programme supports student entrepreneurs, while Futurelabs, Duke Studios, Leeds Beckett Digital Hub and ODI Leeds provide space and networking opportunities.

Brighton is just a short train ride from London but the city has a thriving tech scene of its own. Brighton even has its own digital festival. The month-long event celebrates the growing creative industries in the city. Gaming is a big business in this area too. The Brighton Games Collective fosters traditional and app-based gaming companies.

Canada

If you want to work in tech in Canada then you need to move to Montreal, Vancouver or Toronto, right? Wrong!

The Kitchener-Waterloo region is the perfect example of an area that leveraged its local partners like the University of Waterloo to create a vibrant tech hub which is now fondly known as ‘’Silicon Valley North’’.

The amount of venture capital invested in this region's startups is $15.5 million per 100,000 people, nearly twice the rate of investment among Toronto's startups. In fact, the Canadian Tech Startup Cities Index: Where to Launch Your Tech Business puts Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge in first place.

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America

Silicon Valley isn’t the only place to find a tech job in the states. Raleigh in North Carolina is emerging as a key destination. Tech jobs in this area grew by 38.5% between 2010-2015 which is almost the same rate as San Francisco. The area also has several accelerators and incubators such as Innovators Program and First Flight Venture Center.  

Over the past decade, Austin TX has become increasingly popular. In fact, Forbes listed Austin as the top city in the US for technology job creation. Every year the famous South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference brings an eclectic mix of tech speakers, networking opportunities, educational events and entertainment into the area. The city also comes with a very similar lifestyle to San Fran without the hefty price tag.

Home to tech giants like Intel, HP and Xerox, Portland Oregon has had a thriving tech industry for decades. Nicknamed as the “Silicon Forest”’ the city is home to some of the top academic institutes in the country which guarantees a steady stream of talent. Portland is also one of the most bike-friendly cities in the US which makes commuting easy for its thousands of tech employees.

Continued tech development outside of capital cities is a step in the right direction in achieving true diversity.

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