A not-for-profit organisation that provides opportunities for black women in tech is to be offered membership to BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, as part of a drive to diversify the industry.

Fifty women from Coding Black Females will be offered a membership of BCS each year under a new bursary agreement.

As technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the use of algorithms become more prominent, so too does the need for diversity and representation in the sector responsible for developing these tools.

A lack of representation can result in minority groups being overlooked by new technologies, further enhancing digital divides.

In health, for example, it can result in algorithms being trained on datasets that are not representative, which could result in disease being missed.

Rebecca George, president of BCS, said: “As a society we are grappling with big ethical and technical choices, such as AI development and the use of algorithms, that will impact the lives of our generation, as well as those to come.

“To be safe and effective, leaders and teams from diverse backgrounds, bringing the perspectives and experiences of a wide range of communities, must contribute as this technology and thinking evolves.

“These leaders and teams are increasingly looked to by policy makers. That’s why diversity and inclusion matters.”

Successful applications will benefit from BCS’s mentoring network and be part of its events and policy influence.

Black women make up just 0.7% of the IT sector, meaning their representation is 2.5 times worse than for other industries, according to BCS analysis. Overall, 20% of the industry’s workforce is female.

Coding Black Females founder Charlene Hunter, a software engineer with Made Tech, said: “We want black women and girls to see themselves represented throughout the IT industry, which now shapes society as much as engineering or politics.

“Our bursary with BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT is a commitment to remove barriers to the success of black women in coding and educate leaders in the industry, who are still, largely, white men.

“We hear managers complain that there aren’t enough women or black women to hire. Coding Black Females and BCS want to expose this excuse by seeding the influence of our members across the sector. Introducing 50 black women into the professional body for IT is a great step towards that.”

BCS is set to launch its first expert group dedicated to understanding and overcoming the career barriers facing BAME IT professionals.