Women make up nearly half of the total workforce and yet they still only hold around 25% of jobs in the tech industry. This statistic may seem unsurprising in isolation; however, it is rather alarming in the context of being lower than the percentage of women who held tech jobs in the 1980s.
This disparity appears to progress right through the educational process into employment.
For example, a ‘Women in Tech’ report by PWC reveals that the % of boys and girls choosing STEM subjects at high school are 83% vs 64%, with the corresponding figures at degree level being 52% and 30% respectively.
Though there have been more recent efforts to market STEM subjects and their concomitant opportunities to girls and women, recent data suggest that the number of female computer science graduates is actually decreasing.
As the digital transformation is set only to increase, and the advances in science and technology are so quick, this amounts to missed opportunities and loss of potential in an area threatened with skills shortages as well as reduced diversity of thinking and perspective when developing tech solutions.
Clearly, attracting more women to the tech industry creates a larger talent pool for employers but in a male-dominated environment this may be easier said than done.
So how do companies set about redressing the balance?
Well, it may be that a company’s culture is key. Adopting discourse and policies that are more inclusive and equitable to all backgrounds may be a step in the right direction.
- Jargon in job descriptions that point to an aggressive, results-driven, and high-powered culture rather than a stimulating and collaborative culture could alienate candidates of all backgrounds, but potentially women, disproportionately, and therefore create a missed opportunity for the employer. This is not to say that companies need to downgrade their level of ambition to attract a diverse range of candidates. The assignments on offer can still be presented as challenging and rewarding.
- Equitable maternity and paternity policies should be promoted and taken advantage of by employees. This also reflects the societal shift in men embracing their increasing role as a father and therefore will be a selling factor for men as well as women. It also shows how employers value longevity and continuity of employing long-term staff, alleviating concerns that many women have when losing confidence on their return to work after maternity leave – traditionally far longer than paternity leave.
- Family-friendly policies. Modern life is a massive balancing act and company support structures should reflect the challenges of managing childcare and family with external professional requirements, opportunities, and development, to fit in with both parents. In 2021, the playing field should be level so that gender is not an issue when it comes to fulfilling potential.
Ultimately, increasing the visibility of women in senior roles will create positive stereotypes for women joining tech companies, and promoting women will encourage current staff and potential candidates by giving them confidence that there is career progression to be had. The more influential women become in tech, the more natural a career choice it becomes for other women with the ensuing recruitment and retention benefits for the employer.
Leadership is crucial to disrupt the too long perpetuated stereotype that tech is a man’s world.
It should be just another opportunity.