Why the tech industry needs to do more to attract and support LGBTQ+ talent beyond Pride Month

A study conducted by the Institution of Engineering and Technology, one of the largest STEM industry bodies, found that 30 percent of young LBGTQ+ people in the UK would not consider a career in science, technology or engineering due to worries about discrimination and bullying. 

This disheartening statistic is one that many tech companies are looking to address, especially during June as social media has been flooded with generic ‘Happy Pride Month’ posts and rainbow-covered logos. 

But while awareness is good, research like this suggests that much more needs to be done for the industry to implement real change. 

It can feel daunting starting any new job, and as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, working out the right time to come out, or deciding whether you want to bring it up at all, can make it even more so. For some, having to come out each time they join a new company can feel overwhelming, and even traumatic, particularly if previous experiences have not been positive ones. 

But why does the tech sector in particular face such an issue when it comes to making LGBTQ+ people feel welcomed? 

We asked LGBTQ+ identifying colleagues at Apadmi why they think others may be fearful or hesitant to consider a career in tech. Discussions seemed to centre around the fact that the perception of the industry is not always an accurate reflection.

One employee explained why he thinks the issue is still so pervasive; 

“I think it's likely some people have an incorrect idea of what tech workspaces are like (at least in my experience). While it's true we're a male dominated, and by extension straight, cis able-bodied, male-dominated workspace, I don't think that necessarily makes the environment unfriendly to queer people.

“Personally I think it's a matter of needing to make it clear that we aren't just a bunch of identical individuals, that there is diversity in our industry and that we're all keen for more of it. And that it's encouraged!”

So what can tech companies do to challenge the misconception that they aren’t welcoming spaces for LGBTQ+ talent?

At Apadmi, we work hard to ensure maximum visibility of the great digital products we make, but we mustn't forget the visibility of our people, especially LGBTQ+ colleagues and their achievements.

One staff member suggested: “For queer inclusivity we need to be proud and loud about it, especially in outreach to schools and sixth forms. If queer kids write off tech as a career then there's very little more we can do. I think we also need to get better at inclusivity more generally; accessibility specifically and ensuring not only able-bodied and neurotypical people thrive in the tech space.”

Another colleague added: “I think workplaces having spaces like Slack channels can make them feel more welcoming as you can add pronouns to your profile. Also on job descriptions there are sometimes statements on inclusivity, so statements emphasising that applicants of genders and sexuality are welcomed and supported should always be included. More awareness of the range of diverse people who work in the sector could also help - we're not all cis, heterosexual men!”

So what have our LGBTQ+ colleagues experiences been at Apadmi and how can we ensure we keep attracting and supporting diverse talent?

“During my internship here, I wasn't as confident so I didn't really mention my sexuality,” says one Apadmi employee. “I did meet people who were out and that was nice as it felt like Apadmi was a safe space. Seeing other LGBTQ+ people in the workplace really helps newer people who are unsure if they will be accepted or not. Since coming back as a graduate, and having been here two years now, I've been much more vocal about my sexuality and it’s fun being able to relate to other LGBTQ+ people in the office.

“I appreciate Apadmi adding the pronouns option on Slack and have found people asking me about mine; this opens people up to learning and educating themselves. I think more members of the community talking openly about their experiences at Apadmi would help new starters feel safe about it.”

From my own experience at Apadmi, it feels like a workplace where you are safe to share as much (or as little) as you are comfortable with about yourself, your life and your identity.

Having openly LGBTQ+ colleagues around has made it easier to share my own background in our queer Slack channel where we can connect with one another in a safe space. This is something which wasn’t always available to me at previous companies, so it’s great to experience a tech company actually using tech to allow communities to connect. 

It’s also clear people of Apadmi want to actively support the community, with our colleagues organising a bake sale this month to raise money for an LGBTQ+ charity. 

Our Head of People Laura Herbert gave us some additional insight into Apadmi’s stance: “We believe our strength comes from combining what we have in common with what makes each of us different and unique and we recognise that having a diverse community and an inclusive environment will help us all be the best we can be, not just as a business but as humans too.

“We truly want our people to be who they really are at work and we work really hard to create an inclusive and safe culture, where our people can shine and create a legacy they are proud of at Apadmi, regardless of gender, identity or sexuality.”

So here’s to the tech industry (including Apadmi) shouting louder and prouder about its queer communities beyond Pride Month; something we all need to work harder on to ensure that young LGBTQ+ people are no longer fearful of an industry which has a lot to offer. 

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