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Many of the world’s biggest tech firms are still facing a dearth of female talent. According to the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2021, women make up just 14% of the workforce in cloud computing, 20% in engineering, and 32% in data and AI. Despite widely publicised efforts to redress this imbalance, Deloitte Global predicts that large global technology firms will still only reach nearly 33% overall female representation in their workforce this year – up by just over 2% when compared with 2019 levels. Moving the needle is difficult and progress has been notoriously slow.
This lack of diversity hampers the sector. In an industry driven by innovation, diversity is critical to ensure that ideas are challenged and disruptive concepts continue to come to the fore.
Young people still see the technology industry as better suited for men and many don’t think women can do certain roles, like being engineers. Those archaic ways of thinking are engraved from a young age and often start in school. But a lot can be done to encourage girls to consider IT or technology as their career path when choosing their GCSEs or A-Levels. If this mindset is not rectified, the industry will suffer and miss out on thousands of talented women.
Below we explore what can be done to shift the needle and increase the number of women seeking to pursue, enjoy and sustain an IT career.
Inclusivity starts in early education:
It takes time but it's important to focus on the next generation and ensure a level playing field for their career aspirations. That starts with encouraging girls at school to consider studying STEM subjects and pointing them towards female role models within tech. Creating opportunities for girls to engage with the industry very early in school and letting them know they can pursue technical careers is very much the first step.
Women often have this fear that they’re not good enough. Giving women the opportunity to learn, fail and stand up again and move on at an early age is key to instilling confidence. By encouraging them to give it a try we can often be amazed by what young people can do if somebody believes in them.
Breaking down the barriers in recruitment:
More women are entering the technology industry, but it’s still not where we want it to be and there’s more that can be done. Recruitment is vital to helping more women see themselves in roles they might not have previously considered. Job descriptions may be one of the issues that turn many women away. Perhaps a frightening statistic is that most women won’t apply to a job unless they meet 100% of the requirements, whereas men typically apply when they meet just 60%.
Managers have a responsibility to make tech more accessible and write inclusive job descriptions that avoid jargon and gendered language. Make them simple and avoid writing a wish list – include only what’s needed for the role because women do rule themselves out more often. In addition, highlight the learning and development opportunities available to prospects to make them feel valued and invested in long term.
For anyone that enjoys working with people and processes, or is intrigued by new and highly disruptive markets, tech could be a worthwhile career. You don’t need to be an expert; everything can be learnt. You may start at the bottom, but there is huge potential to grow and work your way up the ladder.
Women need to believe in themselves and have confidence in their abilities – this is what has allowed me to get where I am today. In the early days, there were of course challenges but crucial to success is learning from your mistakes to grow as a professional.
The business responsibility:
Businesses need to look at the structure of their teams and evaluate how many women are in leadership roles. This is critical to fostering a diverse and inclusive workforce. Having women in senior leadership positions can encourage more women into tech roles. If you don’t see someone like you in a leadership position, then you might think this isn’t your world. Supporting this with giving girls the opportunity to shine and helping them to learn and grow is key.
In addition, when a job becomes available, businesses must expose the role to everybody. Companies need to recognise that talent can also move within the organisation. Some companies are very rigid in structure and firms need to be open-minded to saying that someone in finance, for example, could move into operations. Paths into technology are not always linear; businesses have a responsibility to make this known to break down the barriers to entry.
The tech industry is male-dominated, and it may remain this way for a while. But we do have the power to change things. As a woman, it’s taken me fifteen years to be recognised as being good at what I do. However, I was given the chance, to prove myself and I delivered. It’s now up to all of us to give women and girls a chance and encourage them by providing a platform for them to shine.