Women in Tech – How inclusion and gender diversity can impact results.
There is no doubt that we are living in a very fruitful time in which various groups in society are recognizing the need for increasing women’s participation in the most diverse sectors of the economy.
Although there have been many improvements, there is still more to be done, especially when we consider entrepreneurship and technology, topics on which I have been working for over 20 years.
The gender gap in tech is quite amusing when women like Hedy Lamarr, founder of Wi-Fi, and Ada Lovelace, the first female programmer, and Katherine Johnson, a computer scientist who helped NASA land man on the moon, have contributed so much to the technology industry.
Why are we facing gender differences in the tech world?
In today’s world, the biggest barrier to female entry to the technology market is directly related to culture. IT-related jobs are mostly seen as masculine, and there is a series of deep-rooted unconscious norms that run through the educational and family systems which influence women’s career choices.
For this reason, courses such as Computer Science are often far from the first choice of female students. As an example, research shows that the number of Computer Science courses has risen by 586% between the years 1993 and 2017, but the amount of women taking these courses has dropped from 35% to 15% – a very significant drop.
It is apparent, however, that even though there are numerous challenges, we are in a time with fantastic opportunities, especially as the IT workforce has been diminished. Scarcity within the IT workforce has led the market to understand that in order to meet such an important demand, it’s essential to encourage women to take roles in technology.
The future for Women in Tech
Technology will play a greater role in the next decade as technological advances have accelerated in recent years.
Society, economy, education, health and security will increasingly depend on new technologies. Programs, software and digital platforms will be developed for everyone – and without women’s intelligence and production, this development will be almost impossible to happen.
The lack of opportunities and representation are just two of the challenges female tech professionals face. Women working in this field face challenges from the moment they decide to pursue this career path. Up until then, most of the stimuli that girls receive from their families, schools, and society, in general, discourage them from choosing a career in technology.
In an ideal world, the challenges faced by women should have nothing to do with gender – and to change this game, action is needed on several fronts. First, exponentially increase the number of female programmers, computer engineers, data analysts, among other professions.
Second, ensure that organisations, whether public or private, increase diversity and hire women for technology teams, especially for leadership positions. And, perhaps most importantly: it’s time to change the structural culture that prevents girls and women from even dreaming of a career in technology, by not letting them grow up with the idea that tech “is not for them”.
As the economy struggles and the pandemic has its effects, the tech industry is actually booming, and this is the perfect time to actively involve more women in this sector. This scenario is ideal for us to reverse the picture and return to our origins, with amazing women at the forefront of technologies.
And with such high demand, it is not always possible to find qualified professionals to fill the positions, such as data engineering, data scientists, chief technology officers, developers and mobile software engineers, specialists and managers in information security and GDPR.
Another issue to be addressed is how to ensure these women can remain in companies. A study by Accenture and Girls Who Code found that half of the young women working in technology leave the sector before the age of 35.
So, it’s now time for companies to promote an inclusive work environment. “They need to build new processes and review old dynamics so the environment is not only welcoming but one that leads to the development and growth of all employees. Making selection processes more comprehensive, reviewing interview models and establishing career paths for women in leadership are some initiatives that can be conducted internally.” describes Mariana Pezarin, COO of PrograMaria.
How can we reverse this?
Workplaces have changed today. Gender diversity is a challenge since the attrition of female talent occurs gradually or at specific levels. Mostly, women are not held back because of invisible barriers, but instead, they face the cumulative effect of micro-issues that slow their journey or stop them from getting to the top.
A very common example is when managers unknowingly make assumptions about women’s availability to take long-term roles or new projects, thinking that “taking on this project could be an opportunity to speed up Anna’s career but it also requires travelling and I know she just had a baby, so she may prefer to be kept where she’s now” and not even give Anna the option to consider it.
The smart business now puts the focus on understanding and engaging female employees just as they start to consider their careers. This means putting in place proper discussions with women about career aspirations early on, ensuring there are female role models within the company and making flexible working the norm rather than an exception.
Actually, according to research, companies with strong female leadership perform better than those without and gender-diverse boards have a positive effect on business performance that includes higher return on equity and stronger stock market growth.
Another way to focus on gender diversity is to include more women in the hiring process and to provide a different perspective. It also gives candidates proven representation, making them feel comfortable accepting an offer from a company.
To keep these employees it is crucial to provide them with career progression opportunities, fair compensation, and flexible work-life policies – especially after the pandemic when most companies have learned how to work in an online environment and realised a lot of work can be done from home.
So, be the change you want to see!
Give equal opportunities to your employees, trust inclusion and you’ll see the magic happening!
And if you’re a woman in tech – first, congratulations – then always value yourself, keep learning and work for people who are able to recognise your talent!