Advancing Diversity in Tech: Insights from the Bletchley Park Roadshow

The historic grounds of Bletchley Park are synonymous with groundbreaking codebreaking efforts during World War II where women played a huge role in the advancement of computing. Since then the UKs tech innovation landscape has changed dramatically, and Bletchley Park has continued to witness pivotal moments in this transformation, such as the UKs first AI summit. However, despite our rapidly advancing tech sector, women and many other groups remain underrepresented and underserved by the UK tech industry. And that's why the Tech Talent Charter's Diversity in Tech roadshow, which was held at Bletchley Park a few weeks ago, is a key addition to the celebrated narrative that runs through the site's history.

The latest stats on diversity in tech

Organized by the Tech Talent Charter (TTC) and powered by BAE Systems Digital Intelligence, the Diversity in Tech roadshow brought together industry leaders, influencers, and advocates to explore the latest stats on diversity and inclusion in the tech economy. These insights were released in the latest Diversity in Tech report, which is published annually by the Tech Talent Charter, and draws on data from over 700 UK employers and some 230,000 tech employees. The report provides the most up-to-date view on what is happening in the UKs tech talent pipeline and shares what employers can do to tackle talent and diversity challenges.

In this wrap-up blog post we will be covering:

  • Key points from the Diversity in Tech leadership panel, featuring:
    • Co-CEO of the Tech Talent Charter, Karen Blake
    • Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at BAE Systems Digital Intelligence, Theresa Palmer
    • Head of Capability at Justice Digital, Stuart Lynch
    • Head of Innovation at the Sutton Trust, Binda Patel

  • A summary of the insights shared in the leadership roundtables
  • Answers to over 40 (!) audience questions that were posed to the panel on the day

4 key messages from a tech leadership panel on diversity

Following on from the opening keynote by Debbie Forster, co-CEO at TTC, which shared the latest report findings, was a dynamic panel session with leadership voices from BAE Systems Digital Intelligence, Justice Digital, Tech Talent Charter, and the Sutton Trust. The panelists shared valuable insights on fostering diversity and inclusivity within tech organisations. 

1. We need to double down on D&I efforts and go beyond recruitment

Progress on gender diversity has been slow, the panel emphasized the need to accelerate efforts. The Diversity in Tech report found that dissatisfaction with career development was a factor in 80% of women in tech's decisions to leave a tech role. It also found that gender diversity in senior tech roles fell to just 21% in senior tech role holders compared to tech roles overall. Theresa Palmer, Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at BAE Systems Digital Intelligence, highlighted the importance of an inclusive approach beyond recruitment, focusing on creating environments conducive to progression. 

2. Socio-economic barriers are causing elitism in tech

The panel also spoke passionately about elitism in the tech sector and ways to tackle it. In light of the Tech Talent Charter finding that just 9% of tech employees are from low socio-economic backgrounds, Binda Patel, Head of Innovation at the Sutton Trust, stressed the importance of the compounding impact of socio-economic disadvantage on other diversity factors. She highlighted that the class pay gap for women from low socio-economic backgrounds resulted in annual salaries that were more than £7,000 lower than average.

Karen Blake, Co-CEO at the Tech Talent Charter, also went on to highlight how employers are failing their employees by not recognising how socio-economic challenge could present in employee behaviour and how missing this signal was causing employers to fail to meet employees' needs. 

3. Engaging men as allies is crucial

Recognizing the importance of engaging men in discussions on diversity and inclusion, the panel emphasized creating environments where everyone feels included. Blake promoted the benefits of broadening the D&I discussion to equip all employees with the skills to behave inclusively outside of formally defined diversity programmes. Stuart Lynch, Head of Capability at Justice Digital, also shared his belief in the power of 'micro-validations' (the small but frequent positive allyship behaviours that colleagues can show each other) as an antidote to micro-aggressions.

4. Neurodiversity and inclusion is about more than awareness

In light of the finding that 53% of tech employees are neurodivergent, the panel called on employers to build their awareness of neurodivergence in order to start properly serving this overlooked group within their workforce. A neurodivergence expert herself, Blake highlighted the unintended but damaging trend of employers focusing their neurodiversity efforts on helping neurotypical people feel more comfortable with neurodivergence, rather than actually creating supportive working environments for neurodivergent people. Blake stressed the need for organizations to take an individualised approach to their inclusion practice and ask directly how they can support individuals to make workplaces safe spaces for all.

Roundtable discussion wrap up

Following the panel, participants were invited to discuss the report findings in roundtables. We listened in and summarised what Signatories shared in their discussion groups:

Redefining the roles and responsibilities of leaders and managers

  1. Leaders and managers need to be better at understanding different life journeys. They need to do more to remedy challenges their employees face, event when they haven't experienced them. For example, economic hardship, a need for flexible working, parental responsibilities, and other caring commitments, such as caring for older relatives, are issues for underrepresented groups, which are often blocked by narrow leadership attitudes.

  2. Managers and leaders should role-model inclusive behaviours by taking up workplace benefits, demonstrating that there is no political penalty to doing so. For example, senior managers should "leave the office loudly", be open about blocking their calendars with the school run, and go home on time.

  3. Managers play a role in employee progression and mobility outside their own teams. They should be connecting and advocating for their reports in other areas of the business. 
  4. Ensure that team members all receive an equal share of social air time with managers so that they are given equal opportunity for building their social and political capital within the organisation. This is especially important if connection time is happening outside of work hours in ways that others may not be able to access e.g. at the pub after work. 
  5. Define what great leadership looks like in your organisation. Check out this fantastic leadership checklist shared by Signatory and Principal Partner, Global. They also shared how their team is defining different leadership behaviours and how they are holding themselves accountable to inclusive leadership.
  6. Invest in and support managers to become excellent at identifying and developing skills in others.


  1. Create a programme of work entirely focused on building trust in the organisation. Check out this great presentation on Pyschological Safety shared by TTC Signatory, Rowe IT.
  2. Address workplace stereotypes on what we expect from employees: e.g. do we expect women to take notes in meetings more than men? Do we expect men to be more able to work long hours? Are some people in the team being allowed to volunteer for all the additional non-core tasks in the team, whilst others do not?
  3. Address workplace stereotypes on what different employees want from their employers. For example, de-stigmatising men making use of flexible working.
  4. Reject a culture where working long hours are regarded as a badge of honour. Tech roles require intensive thought and the quality of work declines after a certain period. Prioritise measuring efficiency, velocity and productivity over presenteeism and how many lines of code are pushed.
  5. Prepare for generational changes in the workforce; newer generations are protective of their work life balance and employers will need to change expectations  in order to attract and retain talent.
  6. Employ reverse mentoring to build connection and understanding through the organisation. 
  7. Create buddy systems in the workplace where people can anonymously request a buddy who has a particular experience e.g. returning from a career break, neurodivergent, experienced loss.
  8. Empower employees to set up internal networks that support them. Give employees the information on how to do this and communicate permission to do so clearly. Enable employees to join networks if they have an indirect interest in that group e.g. allowing aspiring parents to join parent networks. This allows them to plan better for how they will manage their future work experiences. 


  1. Rethink the allocation and management of consulting/client-facing work: many tech employees are excluded from inclusive benefits because businesses have not created effective and innovative ways to serve the needs of the client without dismissing the needs of employees.
  2. Don't make underrepresented groups responsible for educating others about diversity and inclusion or delivering your D&I agenda. It takes them away from their career-amplifying work and positions it as "their" problem rather than an issue for the whole team.
  3. Reduce the eligibility period required before someone can access parental benefits. This unfairly targets women who are forced to stay in roles that do not serve their careers for fear of losing a key benefit. Ultimately this makes it less likely they will return to work after a break if their career was already something they were unhappy with before their leave.
  4. Create more nuanced leave policies beyond sick leave and annual leave. This allows people to take time off for specific needs like bereavement, caring or reproductive health, without losing key time allowances for recreation and recovery. 
  5. Ensure workplace facilities are updated to meet the needs of a diverse workforce. Examples from Signatories were: sensory relaxation spaces, baby changing facilities in all toilets (not just female toilets), private and hygienic spaces for breastfeeding or pumping, and an emergency childcare room in the event parents need to bring children to work with them.
  6. Utilise a fair work allocation policy to ensure career-building work is evenly shared across team members. 
  7. Make your HR policies readable and easy to understand and specify how managers should execute them. 

Progression and performance

  1. Move your D&I approach away from the idea of "fixing" people in underrepresented groups. E.g. women in tech initiatives centred on giving women more confidence.
  2. Redefine what progression means in your organisation: create internal, lateral and in-role opportunities for employees to find career development - progression does not always have to mean "up".
  3. Invest in mentoring and reverse mentoring.
  4. Make it a manager's responsibility to advocate for the personal development of their team members. 
  5. Establish progression KPIs that consider diversity e.g. diversity of promoted cohorts, diversity of applicants for internal promotions, bonus pay gap etc. 
  6. Establish sustained onboarding experiences for people who are new in their role rather than a one-off "information dump" at the start.
  7. Provide soft skills training as well as in-work-hours technical upskilling time.

Employer questions and answers

Finally, at the event we had a hugely engaged and active audience. They submitted over forty questions to the panel during the event. We weren't able to answer all of them at the event but we have answered all of them here!

The Diversity in Tech roadshow: powered by BAE Systems Digital Intelligence

The Diversity in Tech roadshow is powered by BAE Systems Digital Intelligence. Find out more about their commitment to DEI here. You can also read their case study on how they increased gender diversity in their tech roles here.

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