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UK data industry lags in diversity as gender pay gap worsens

Despite being one of the fastest growing sectors of the UK economy, new research shows that the data and analytics industry is lagging behind the national average across many areas of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I).

The industry’s lack of diversity makes it vulnerable to falling behind in productivity, innovation and creativity, according to international data and analytics recruitment group Harnham, which published the findings.

Harnham’s State of Diversity in Data and Analytics is published annually, examining D&I across areas such as gender, ethnicity and disability.  

This year’s report, based on a survey of 3,000 respondents globally, highlights the success the industry has had in terms of improving gender balance compared to previous years. However, it also highlights areas where the sector needs to lift its game.

Gender divide

As a traditionally male dominated sector, it is encouraging to see a much more positive picture as the gender divide edges closer to the ideal scenario of a 50/50 split; 30% of data and analytics roles in the UK are now held by women.

However, most of these roles are held by entry or mid-level employees which, while closing the gender divide, creates a widening chasm for the gender pay gap.  

Gender pay gap

An influx of women this year has widened the pay gap by 3.2%, leading to an overall gap of 10.5%. While it is promising to see that this number is lower than it was in 2018 (13.3%), this is still higher than the national average of 8.9%.   

Currently, the pay gap in data and analytics stands at 89p for women to every £1 earned by men. This issue derives from the influx of women entering the industry at junior level, who are not only skewing the pay bias of the sector but are underpaid compared to their male colleagues.  

This means that the gender pay gap begins from the moment a woman breaks into the industry and will rarely close as women climb the ranks next to their male counterparts. 


On the surface, the sector is a trailblazer in this area, with 26% of professionals coming from a BAME background, compared to the national average of 14%.  

But when this is broken down, it becomes clear that this data cannot be taken at face value and the industry still has a way to go to support fair and equal ethnic representation.  

Firstly, three quarters of the industry is made up of white professionals. Additionally, certain ethnicities are over-represented, whilst others are disproportionally low. For example, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Arab professionals account for 15% of data and analytics roles, whilst only 3% of roles are filled by people from Black, Caribbean, and African backgrounds.


It’s a young industry, with 63% of professionals under the age of 35. A high concentration of this group represents the newer, more cutting-edge specialisms, such as marketing and insight and data science.   


A very low percentage of data and analytics teams employ disabled professionals, with only 3.3% of those with visible and invisible challenges represented.  

There is a consensus, however, from many within the industry that the flexibility necessitated by Covid-19 will create more opportunities for individuals with disabilities through the break away from the nine to five and the option to work from home or in a more accessible environment.


There is a clear gender divide when it comes to employee benefits, with men erring on the side of financial benefits and women opting for more future-proofing measures, such as pensions, health insurance, and learning and development. For example, men put ‘shares’ as number four on their list of importance, a benefit completely missing from the women’s list.  

However, interestingly, despite the contrast between the genders on their work needs and wants, both men and women put working from home very high on their lists (first for women, second for men), suggesting that even pre-Covid both share a desire for flexibility. 

“The industry is one that thrives on innovation and a dynamic, diverse nature but it’s clear that there is still a lot of work to be done,” commented Harnham founding partner David Farmer.  

“We can’t sit here and say that there's a ‘2+2=4’ system to solving these issues either; each company will have its own pain points and challenges which need to be examined on a very case by case basis.  

“However, celebrating diversity, ensuring transparency and honesty from the top down and actively encouraging an inclusive and accepting culture, are examples of sure-fire ways to get your firm on the right track.” 

To download a copy of the Harnham Diversity Report in Data & Analytics, visit 

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