The lack of representation of women and people from ethnic minorities in Britain's fast-growing tech sector has been blasted as "shocking" following the publication of a new report.

A new study found that women make up just 12.6 per cent of board members and 16.6 per cent of senior executives at the 500 largest tech companies in the UK.

Meanwhile, only 8.5 per cent of senior leaders in the sector were from a black, Asian, minority ethnic (BAME) background; 65 per cent of boards had no female directors and over two fifths of executive teams had no female representation at all.

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Another key finding of the study, which was carried out by Inclusive Boards, was that 35 per cent of board members and more than a quarter of senior executives in the top tech firms attended Oxford or Cambridge universities compared to just 1 per cent of the population.

Samuel Kasumu, the organisation's director, criticised the lack of diversity as "shocking".

"If technology is to be at the heart of the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ then women and black and Asian communities must be a big part of that and have the same opportunities to flourish," he stressed.

The study makes a number of key recommendations to tackle the lack of representation of female and BAME executives, such as creating a 'board-ready development programme' which would involve supporting and training candidates from diverse backgrounds to feed into the senior leadership pipeline.

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It also suggests creating diversity action plans, widening talent pools to recruit from other industries like finance and the public sector, and setting "aspirational targets" for increasing diversity on boards and within senior leadership roles.

The study commended the likes of Virgin Media and Salesforce for "performing better" in terms of ethnic diversity at board level.

Inclusive Boards said prominent tech firms including Amazon, Facebook and Google were not added into the final 500 "due to their complex company and tax arrangements".

"The available body of research confirms that the tech sector faces similar challenges to those of
other sectors of the economy," the report states.

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"Nonetheless, the staggering discrepancy between men and women and the scant number of individuals from non-white backgrounds mean that efforts to achieve gender parity as well as societal representativeness must intensify."

The report goes on to say that organisations at all levels of the sector need to make use of their resources and creativity to build inclusive environments.

It adds: "With the tech sector expanding at rapid pace and contributing to the economy more than other sectors, it is imperative that it begins to mirror the people whom it serves."