International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the achievements of women and campaigning for gender parity, is on Friday 8th March. While equality is closer than ever before, there are still sectors tarred by the lack of female representation in their workforce.
Sadly, one such industry is technology. Despite the government claiming that technology businesses are at the heart of the UK economy, only 17% employed within the industry are female.
It’s widely accepted that innovation leads to growth, and diversity leads to innovation. So, why is there still a shortage of women in technology?
In this article, we explore the possible root causes of women in tech and how industries can become more progressive by employing a more diverse workforce.
Identifying the cause of inequality
In 2017, a Google software engineer, James Damore, sent a memo claiming that a lack of female tech representation was caused by biological differences. Promptly firing Damore, Google now faced tough questions on their 20% female tech worker statistic. This sparked an enormous debate, leading to the suggestion that, in the western world, computers had been marketed in the 80s as ‘boy’s toys’ leading to a male-dominated industry.
The argument, led by Professor Dame Wendy Hall, highlighted that should you visit a classroom in India, Malaysia or Nigeria, you’ll find 50% of IT students were women. Countries where computers weren’t marketed solely to men as gaming devices hadn’t experienced the inequality. Furthermore, according to studies by Professor Gina Rippon, not only were these differences not consistent across countries, but also so insubstantial that they disappear with training.
Obviously, this is a cultural issue. Very few UK students choosing computer science A-level courses are female. Pair that with the fact that approximately half of those who study IT and tech then go on to work in the field and you see the roots of a male-dominated sector. The challenge then becomes addressing why the tech sector is so unappealing to women, and how that can be changed.
Repositioning tech to appeal to everyone
While a wider issue, the gender pay gap provides a possible solution. The inability to stay in employment while supporting a family is widely recognised as the contributing factor to women’s disproportionate wages. The tech industry’s solution to this? Flexible working patterns.
The 9-5, once a cornerstone to business practice, isn’t relevant to technology. With more contractors in the workplace, an international workforce and the automation of customer service, there is little need to operate in the rigid working week. Young people should be made aware of the flexible environment for working families to flourish in.
Once you have clearly advertised the benefits of the industry to prospective employees, consider what keeps them there. Discrimination can occur in any business, but in an environment where a minority is more apparent, you need to be more proactive in stamping out sexist and discriminative behaviour to ensure your working environment is as forward-thinking as your service.
Enjoy a wider talent pool
With women now engaging within the sector, companies are benefitting from unique perspectives – viewpoints that may provide insight into target markets and inform development plans. It’s easy to limit yourself to the positions and values that your business is familiar with, but such a path will only lead to stagnation.
Dedicated to reducing the gender gap in technology? At Maxwell Bond, our consultants are committed to equal opportunities as much as you are. We can help you find a diverse range of talent that will drive innovation at your business. Simply call one of our consultants today and take the next, necessary step towards innovative hiring solutions.