International Women’s Day: closing the women in technology equality gap

Rumblings on why there are so few women in technology continue to no end. Here leading women in tech are choosing to challenge the status quo

The number of women in technology is a familiar topic for many, simply because there are so few. And with research highlighting that this number has barely changed in the last ten years, it’s vital that more girls and young women are inspired to join this fast-paced and innovative career path.

A study by PwC revealed that only 3% of surveyed female A-level and university students said that a tech career was their first choice. This staggering statistic needs to change if the industry is ever going to achieve close to gender parity.

This International Women’s Day, DiversityQ spoke to eight technology experts to hear their experiences first-hand in the sector and what tech businesses can do to close the gender gap.

Smashing all expectations

Kasia Kulma, Senior Data Scientist – Team Lead at Mango Solutions (an Ascent company), reinforces the many benefits women bring to the workplace.

“Some of them are rather pragmatic; for example, by embracing a more diverse talent pool, we address talent shortages and progress to closing the talent supply/demand gap. More fundamentally, though, diversity brings a variety of perspectives, which has a knock-on effect in increased creativity and thus faster problem-solving and improved products.

“But it’s not only products that can improve this way, but the company culture too. Helping employees feel included, no matter their background or gender, can break down barriers and reduce the fear of being rejected. This is a great way to empower your employees and harness their ideas and thoughts.”

But there’s still work to be done.

“Too often, women aren’t taken as seriously nor valued in the same way that our male counterparts are,” explains Hannah Fowler, Global Operations Director (EMEA and Internal Operations) at Globalization Partners.

“Too rarely will women call this out. Women are so resilient and will tolerate less preferential treatment allowing it to become a new ‘lower standard’ and eventually the ‘norm’. Tolerance of discriminatory behaviour does not result in change.

“We need to be stronger than ever to uphold and push gender equality further for the sake of both women around the world today and the future’s daughters. Leading by example, by holding on to who you are, your beliefs and values is crucial to breaking down barriers.

“Stop dimming your light to make someone else feel more comfortable because if there is any possibility that you can be a shining light for equality and acceptance, then you are privileged. Take that privilege and use it to clear a path for others to also shine.”

Visibility is vital

According to Svenja de Vos, Chief Technology Officer at Leaseweb Global, there aren’t enough women in tech because of the lack of role models.

“To change perceptions, more female role models are needed who, supported by practical initiatives like training, open days and internship opportunities, can help to create a good image for the tech industry as a sector that’s fun and rewarding to work in. This is important if we consider technology’s continued impact across all sectors – as our world becomes increasingly defined by tech, now is the time for the tech industry to create and elevate more female role models who can open the way for young girls to follow in their footsteps.”

Kate Mollett, Regional Director at Commvault Africa, agrees. “One way to demonstrate that female talent is being identified, nurtured and promoted is by having visibility of women in leadership positions.

“To young women who are keen to enter the tech industry, I’d say back yourself. If I only took roles that I was qualified for or had experience in, I would not be where I am today. Be confident in your ability to step up, lean in and adapt. When you are faced with a tough or difficult situation, that’s when you are learning and developing. Don’t shy away from hard tasks, challenging roles or difficult conversations; they all represent some form of a growth opportunity.”

Changing for the better

“One of the simplest places businesses can make a positive change is starting with job ads,” explains Mini Biswas, Presales Manager at Node4. “If a tech company was to offer a role that specifically outlined that it was open to men and women – be it full time, part-time or on flexible hours – they would have much more success in receiving female applications. Many women will look at a tech role and naturally assume it’s not right for them.

“We also need to address some of the key issues facing women in the workplace. There is a huge stigma around postnatal depression. Many women struggle after giving birth and having the support of their employer is crucial. This is where companies need to have that emotional intelligence. If they can work to be more supportive when women return from maternity leave, it will provide a huge boost to those within the industry.”

Agata Nowakowska, AVP EMEA at Skillsoft, reveals the impact of lockdown on working women and where improvements must be made.

“According to a recent report, 46% of mothers have said that a lack of childcare provision played a role in their redundancy. A recent article in The Guardian has highlighted that the Government is coming under increasing pressure to commit to gender pay gap reporting as it was cancelled last year due to the pandemic. Pay gap reporting is an extremely important issue that shouldn’t be brushed over because of economic uncertainty.

“Women of all ages and backgrounds need to come together to challenge the gender pay gap, and the Government needs to play its part in enforcing organisations tackle this issue head-on. Organisations should be treating all their employees fairly, no matter of gender. This year, #ChooseToChallenge gender pay gap reporting.”

“Organisations must adopt a proactive approach in developing an authentic and flexible family-friendly culture that ensures parents and carers can retain their pivotal place within the labour market,” Graham Jackson, CEO at Fluent Commerce, adds.

“Given the significant issues of gender discrimination, pay gaps, and unequal distributions of household labour that still plagues society at large, offering better parental leave as well as the option to make flexible choices on how and where to work is a significant step in levelling the playing field for all.

“To create lasting and meaningful change, we need to change cultures, habits and stereotypes – with policies that support and promote women in business, without forcing them to make choices between their families and careers.”

Key thoughts to takeaway

To conclude, Sofia Kaufman, Chief People Officer at Zerto, shares some heartfelt advice: “The tech industry is founded on innovation, and that can only occur when there is diversity throughout and a willingness to leave comfort zones. Women offer a fresh perspective on problem-solving, and that’s precisely what the tech industry is all about. Without diversity of perspective, we risk missing out on delivering the best solutions possible.

“To those women who want to enter the tech industry: be yourself unapologetically. There is a perception among women that they need to prove themselves. Don’t do that. Be who you are because it inspires trust in those around you. You bring something to the table that no one else does. Learn from others, listen to their experiences and heed their advice – but never stop being your true authentic self. It got you this far, and it will take you wherever you want to go.”
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