International Day of the Girl is a day to highlight the need to eliminate discrimination against girls and celebrate their right to education. With this in mind, we’ve spoken to nine tech industry leaders about the best ways to increase the number of women in the industry.
Women are still a minority in the technology sector, making up only 19% of the workforce.
As Sara Hamilton, Deputy Director, Product & Managed Services at Mango Solutions, points out: “That means that over half the world’s population are left out of conversations which could dramatically impact all our futures.”
So how can we improve things?
“Encouraging younger girls to choose STEM subjects is the first step on the road to getting more women in the technology industry,” argues Hamilton.
“The good news is that this year saw a 5.79% rise in female A-level participants for STEM-focused programmes, including a 13.02% increase in computing. This is really encouraging, but there’s still a long way to go to closing the STEM skills gap. Helping schools broaden their curriculum is another positive way to get school children thinking about a career in technology. For example, Mango Solutions is supporting GreenOak Academy, a girls school in Birmingham, with plans to get the programming language, R, on the curriculum to get students learning data science at school. It’s still early days – they only started in September – but the feedback is that they love it.”
Julie Giannini, Chief Customer Officer at Egnyte, agrees that progress has to start in school. “Gender equality begins with education. This leads to more women in STEM that are well equipped to go into tech and leadership roles.”
Pointing to personal experience, she recalls: “Growing up, my parents instilled in my sister and me a love of learning, curiosity and the ability to go in any direction in our careers. I chose tech. When girls are educated and have the support of their family and friends, our countries, communities, and companies become stronger and better able to flourish.”
Agata Nowakowska, Area Vice President EMEA at Skillsoft, adds: “There are so many programmes aimed at getting girls interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects. However, it’s no coincidence that while most girls show some interest in STEM subjects at 10 or 11 years of age, this tends to wane by age 15. Schools must continue to find new ways to keep girls engaged in STEM subjects, by providing the opportunity to build websites, learn to code or use robotic toys.”
She continues, “in every classroom lies the potential for the next big breakthrough, discovery or cure – we must not alienate half the room and risk untapped talent going to waste. We need girls in STEM, and they need our continued support.”
However, it’s vitally important that support for women in tech continues beyond their school years. “Increased mentorship is one way forward for diversity,” states Debra Danielson, CTO and SVP Engineering at Digital Guardian. “As a woman working in technology, I can say that, outside of my dogged stubbornness, my opportunities have stemmed from having a single person willing to advocate for me.
“Recognising the dearth of diversity in the industry, I’m passionate about increasing the participation and impact of both women and underrepresented communities in technology. I volunteer at many levels, from Tech Girls Rock (secondary school girls learning to code) to coaching and mentoring tech founders to access capital. We must create more space for women within the industry.”
Nicola Kinsella, VP of Global Marketing at Fluent Commerce, reinforces the importance of supporting other women: “Remember to be champions for each other. Be the change you want to see. It is up to us to empower the next generation of women in all industries to pursue their dreams and demand equality.”
Kinsella also argues that institutional change is key. “Finding a supportive, inclusive organisation is not easy, but they do exist. Here at Fluent Commerce, we support, and continue to support, a diverse team and an open, inclusive working environment.”
“To drive real cultural change, business leaders need to create a platform for exploring women’s diverse experiences and perspectives,” agrees Samantha Thorne, Head of People at Node4. “Only then can they have meaningful conversations, generate truly impactful action plans, and fully realise the benefits of a diverse and inclusive workforce.”
Dottie Schindlinger, Executive Director at Diligent Institute, adds: “Diversity comes in all shapes and sizes, and there is still a lot to be done to make the modern-day workplace a more equitable and diverse space. Diligent is committed to creating a world where every leader is empowered to build successful, equitable and sustainable organisations.”
This sentiment is echoed by Hugh Scantlebury, Founder and CEO at Aqilla: “Here in the UK, we can all play our part in helping to further enshrine equality in our society — and call out any instances of discrimination that we see. As a founder and director, I’m proud of Aqilla’s record in encouraging women and advancing their careers — especially as finance and tech have traditionally been very male-dominated industries. I’d like to think that our positive, inclusive attitude has played a small part in this much-needed shift and that we will see even further change in the years ahead.”
To conclude, Diane Albano, CRO at Globalization Partners, points out how far things have come in recent years. “There are now so many opportunities, organisations and initiatives that push for a future of work where everybody has a seat at the table, from International Day of the Girl to the Code First Girls initiative, to the Pangeo Global Employment Conference. Pursuit of progress towards a fair and equitable environment is always a worthy undertaking – let’s keep the momentum going.”
In this article, you have learnt that:
- Education girls at a you age on STEM subjects is key to getting more women into tech
- It’s important to call out instances of discrimination against women in tech when observed