From education to employment

Severe drop in entry-level female candidates across global data industry.

women working in office

New research released today from Harnham, the global leaders in data recruitment, reveals that the proportion of female data professionals in entry-level roles has more than halved in the UK and the US, and declined in the EU data industry in 2023.

Historically, entry-level positions have represented the most gender diverse section of the data workforce, so these findings present a worrying outlook for the diversity of the future talent pipeline of the data industry.

In the UK, Harnham’s Diversity in Data report reveals that the proportion of female professionals joining the industry at entry-level has fallen by more than half, from 35% last year to 11% this year. Meanwhile, in the US, women accounted for 12% of entry level positions in the data industry in 2023, down from 36%. The EU also saw an overall decline of female representation at entry-level, albeit less severe – experiencing a fall from 37% to 34% this year.  The notable exception is the Netherlands, where entry-level positions in data are dominated by female professionals, accounting for 60% of roles.

The gender pay gap in the UK and US has also widened this year, most significantly in the UK where it has increased to 16% in favour of men, up from 6% last year. Meanwhile, the Netherlands has managed to narrow its gap from 23% to 10%.

Having seen first-hand the work that organisations have been doing to improve gender diversity, David Farmer, CEO of Harnham, acknowledges that:

“These findings present a disappointing move in the wrong direction, particularly as female representation at a junior level has been on a steady incline over recent years and because this section of the workforce is representative of the industry’s future.

“The data industry’s ability to operate asan innovative, forward-thinking sector is reliant on a constant stream of high-quality talent, and if, as employers, we’re failing to reach or retain any section of the population, our growth and success will quickly hit a ceiling.”

There are pockets of positivity, however, with progress evident in mid-level positions. In the UK, percentages nudged closer to gender parity in mid-level, with women making up 37% of these roles and 35% of technical lead/manager positions, indicating that the higher numbers of female entry level candidates from last year may have been retained and have progressed.

In the US, females occupy 39% of mid-level positions and in the EU female representation at director level has increased from 11% to 15% over the past 12 months. Clearly, progress is possible.

To ensure that diverse junior talent continues to flow into the industry, David Farmer affirms that:

“We need to ensure that a career in data is viewed as a worthwhile and appealing career to all, but also that we are making a sustained industry-wide commitment to removing any barriers to entry.

“Employment offerings need to be reflective of the talent that we are trying to reach, and until we eradicate issues such as the lingering gender pay gap, we will never be able to realise our potential for equity, and more importantly, we will be failing to attract the best talent.”

Harnham’s annual Diversity in Data report surveys more than 6,500 professionals across the data industry in the US, UK, France and the Netherlands. It examines how fairly pay is distributed, how diversity at different leadership levels is faring and what professional benefits are most appealing to different demographics.

In the UK, female professionals of all ethnicities consider flexible working as more valuable than health insurance, whilst the opposite is true for male professionals. And in the US, females are twice as likely to value charitable giving than their male counterparts.

Download a copy of the Harnham Diversity in Data report here.

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