Just 15% of chief technology officers or CTOs at FTSE 100 firms are women, according to research by developer recruitment platform CodinGame.
This suggests that female tech champions, like many women in tech, are struggling to break into the top jobs.
The research found that two companies in the FTSE 100 have both a female CTO and CEO. They are Severn Trent, led by Liv Garfield where Jayne Showell is CTO/CIO and at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), where Dame Emma Walmsley is CEO and Karenann Terrell is the chief digital and technology officer.
GSK is one of the three firms in the top 10 by market capitalisation that have female CTOs, alongside AstraZeneca and British American Tobacco.
Gender diversity: some progress, but change has been slow
The issue of gender diversity on company boards has been high on the agenda for years and although change has been slow, progress has been broadly good.
A third of board roles at FTSE 100 firms are now held by women, according to the government-backed Hampton-Alexander Review of gender equality in business. This target of 33% representation at board level was reached by Britain’s leading firms ahead of the 2021 target, but this success is a stark difference to the progress among CTO roles for women.
1. Only two companies in the FTSE 100 have both a female CTO and CEO
2. Three of the top 10 firms by market capitalisation have female CTOs
3. The average female representation on FTSE 100 boards is 33%
Stereotypes holding back diversity drive
Gender diversity within tech has proved a stubborn problem to shift because there exist stereotypes of what a coder looks like — typically a man between 25 and 35 years old. Some recruiters are taking steps to remove bias from the hiring process.
CodinGame, like some other recruitment agencies, is attempting to solve this problem by giving recruiters only that information that is relevant to their candidate search, keeping them in the dark about a potential recruit’s sex and gender until later in the process.
Aude Barral, co-founder of CodinGame, commented: “There’s no good reason why women are not well represented at CTO level. This research shows that when it comes to jobs in tech, FTSE 100 firms are behind the curve and need to urgently investigate why this is happening. Gender diversity in tech is a global challenge.
“Campaigning on this issue should have ceased to be necessary long ago, but tech recruiters can be prone to hiring clones who fit an expectation of what a developer is, not to mention the fact that unconscious biases still imply that women may perform worse than men in developer roles. There is also a natural temptation to revert to seeking out candidates who resemble staff they have hired successfully before. As a result, the tech industry remains a male-dominated world.
“If you ask the coding community about gender bias, they will proudly tell you that sex and gender don’t come into it. It’s time that the industry’s public face reflected that core belief too and the first place this needs to happen is within the UK’s biggest companies.”
Nicole Sahin, Founder and CEO, Globalization Partners: “This research shows that women continue to be underrepresented in CTO roles. For every 100 men promoted and hired to a manager, only 72 women are promoted and hired.
From recruitment to development, to women-friendly policies, this research reminds us about the importance of prioritising equality across every aspect of the organisation, to ensure women’s progress is accelerated further.
“After all, there is so much to gain from companies focusing on creating a diverse, inclusive culture that attracts talent of all genders, ages, sexualities, and ethnicities.
“Time and time again, research shows that organisations that have a high percentage of diversity financially outperform their competitors. I’ve seen first-hand the powerful results that occur when people with different perspectives work together. By striving for equal, inclusive, and diverse organisations, we can work towards a better, fairer world.”
Agata Nowakowska, Area Vice President at Skillsoft: “Women are still largely under-represented in the STEM arena and even less so in STEM leadership positions. The reality is that – even in 2020 – it’s so much more difficult for women to climb the career ladder. With persistent unconscious bias that women lack the confidence to apply for promotions or that they are simply not good enough to hold leadership positions, women have to work much harder than men to prove their ability.”
Some women even believe that to be a good leader or be chosen as one, they need to exhibit male traits. This isn’t the case at all. In fact, research by McKinsey & Company found that organisations that had more gender diversity on their executive teams were 15% more likely to experience above-average profitability than other companies. Improving gender diversity clearly makes business sense.
“Women add a different dynamic to male leaders and there’s no reason why more women can’t be the next Indra Nooyi or Ginni Rometty.”