This article was written by Stephen Feline, head of North America at London & Partners, and first appeared on Fast Company‘s website in the Executive Board section on June 5 under the headline: To provide opportunities for diverse workers, look where diverse talent has had success.
Despite the recent headlines about layoffs, the tech and financial services sectors in both Atlanta and London continue to thrive. In Atlanta, giants including Visa, Salesforce and BlackRock are expanding their footprint with recent hiring announcements. Across the pond in London, Apple is set to open its new European headquarters in Battersea Power Station. Blackstone, Apollo Global Management and Atmosphere also recently announced plans for larger new locations to house their rapidly expanding headcount at their London-based EHQs.
While there are numerous reasons behind the success stories in London and Atlanta, I believe a primary driver and common theme has been the prioritization of diversity in their tech workforces.
In Atlanta, roughly 27 percent of tech workers are Black according to CBRE, compared to roughly 3.7 percent in the overall U.S. tech workforce. This is driven in part by education and availability of talent, as Atlanta is a leading city responsible for awarding Black undergraduates engineering degrees—Georgia State University in downtown Atlanta graduates more Black bachelor’s degree candidates than any other nonprofit university in the U.S.
From an expert’s experience, Atlanta has been a great place to find and recruit skilled and diverse talent for quite some time. Many tech giants have recently relocated to take advantage of this opportunity, while also making an effort to connect with those in their new communities. This has encouraged Black talent to seek roles at those organizations that are dedicated to supporting and uplifting their communities.
Meanwhile, London prides itself on being the “crossroads of the world.” According to the 2021 census, 37 percent of the population was born outside the U.K., and 46 percent is non-white. In fact, Mayor Sadiq Khan is the son of a Pakistani immigrant bus driver, and it’s estimated that over 300 languages are spoken throughout London. I believe favorable immigration policies toward tech workers and the continued allure of life in the U.K.’s capital help ensure the best of the world’s talent remains available to hire in London.
Atlanta and London’s positions as sources of diverse tech talent have not gone unnoticed by large corporate employers. AfroTech reported on how companies became acutely aware during the Black Lives Matter protests that they had diversity problems to fix, and many saw the solution in Atlanta. This has driven much of the stampede of companies including Microsoft, Airbnb, Apple and Google that have recently announced plans to expand in the city to take advantage of high-quality Black tech talent and achieve their DEI goals.
London offers a similar proposition. A report from Tech Nation found London’s tech sector has 30.1 percent Black and minority ethnic representation and 28.4% female representation. With more than 900,000 people employed in tech in London, this represents a vast pool of diverse talent. There is still of course room for growth and improvement so that as one of the world’s leading business/tech hubs, London can lead the way (along with other prominent hubs like Atlanta) in championing a more diverse and inclusive global tech community.
Organizations such as 1000 Black Voices and OutBritain have been influential U.K. resources to ensure diverse voices have ample opportunities. 1000 Black Voices has worked with companies like Microsoft to help them develop inclusion-building programs and improve the rates of recruitment, retention and promotion of Black talent. OutBritain is working with organizations, including American Express and Meta, to build an LGBTQ+ business community and promote supplier diversity.
Both cities are also displaying marked economic resilience in a challenging global context. A report from Ernst & Young showcased that London achieved 5.5 percent growth in gross value added in 2022, and forecasted a 1.2 percent annualized increase in its working-age population between 2024-2026. Atlanta also displays a rugged growth trajectory and now has a labor force that is 16 percent larger than it was in 2010, compared to 7 percent for the U.S. as an average. London and Atlanta-based health tech company Scan.com even recently announced a successful Series A funding that highlights the shared success of both cities.
Plenty of excellent work is being done by various organizations, including YearUp and BeyondHERizons, to increase the number of people from under-represented groups going into the tech sector. For example, in London, a new initiative from one of our non-profit programs, BeyondHERizons, is working to address the funding gap for female founders and entrepreneurs when securing investments. In the U.S., OneTen is a coalition working to close the opportunity gap for Black talent. Its mission is to “hire, promote, and advance one million Black individuals who do not have a four-year degree into family-sustaining careers over the next ten years.”
As a business leader, if you genuinely care about diversity in your workforce, consider going where diverse tech talent already exists rather than trying to relocate employees to your existing HQs. To ensure you are actively looking for and delivering on hiring diverse talent, prioritize hiring in diverse cities like London and Atlanta.
As Head of North America at London & Partners, Stephen Feline helps North American businesses looking to scale into London and London-based companies into North America.