Gender diversity in the technology industry is an urgent issue.
Women represent a fifth of the workforce, a number that has decreased over the last 30 years.
If the labour market’s demand grows at the rate it has been over the last decade, and the number of women in tech doesn’t drastically improve, then the country will have an economic problem on its hands.
What can we do to improve?
“You can’t catch all the fish if you only fish in half the pool,”
Matt Hancock, Minister of State for Digital and Culture
IT hasn’t always been so male-dominated. During the tech boom in the 80’s, women contributed 38% of the industry’s workforce. Now, thirty years on, the percentage has halved.
Why does gender diversity in the workplace matter?
Diversity in the workplace can bring so much more than a statistic your marketing team can proudly shout about.
Businesses with greater gender diversity have better returns and less volatility. McKinsey reports that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to outperform against industry medians.
If women and people of colour don’t have a seat at the table designing our future we are baking into our system’s bias without even realising it.
Whilst the number of girls interested in a technology-related career falls, the tech job market is growing faster than any other. If we’re going to meet the technology workforce needs and continue to be European leaders in this industry, then we need to start appealing more to the gender which makes up 51% of the population.
An equal employment ratio is a sign of a healthy and inclusive culture. When it comes to recruitment, diversity can help build your employer brand and attract talent that wouldn’t normally apply for positions at your company.
Better yet, if you can build your leadership team to have a fair gender representation, you can inspire other females to aim higher than the lower paying IT jobs that women typically hold today.
Why is it low?
Social and cultural conditioning. Sexism, harassment and patriarchy come into it too, but a huge factor impacting girls’ decisions to not pursue a career in IT is their upbringing.
From an early age, boys and girls are taught gender biases and these sexist assumptions can have a long-lasting effect.
“Men are inherently better at IT, that’s why the industry is male-dominated”
This is simply not the case.
It’s true that male and female brains are different, but the differences are subtle. The brains of newborn boys may be slightly larger, but it’s girls who go on to outperform boys in STEM-related subjects in school. Where businesses are failing is encouraging these high-performers to follow a career in technology.
HOW CAN WE IMPROVE THE RATIO?
Role models are important because they give us the ability to imagine our future selves. The more closely we identify with these role models, the easier it is to imagine ourselves in their position. However, senior women in IT are often left in the shadows- in cio.co.uk’s top 100 CIO list, just 18 are women.
There are some incredibly talented women in the industry that we could, and should, be bringing into the spotlight alongside their male peers.
Inclusive job adverts
Men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them. And it has very little to do with females not being confident that they could do the job well, but rather that they believe it would be a waste of their time to apply for a role they will be automatically dismissed for.
To attract talented females, we must make sure that job requirements are realistic for the salary. If we’re asking for too much then it’s likely that most people applying will be men.
Job adverts should also use inclusive language to persuade women that it is worthwhile applying. Its all about consciously using language that doesn’t marginalise groups of people.
We have three top tips for writing inclusive job adverts:
- Keep the language simple: Avoid acronyms, jargon and colloquialisms etc.
- Use both masculine and feminine -coded language (more information here)
- Think about what benefits matter to different groups of candidates: Flexible working, comfortable workspaces, childcare, financial bonuses, working culture, large computer screens, accessible offices, nearby parking etc. Some things will matter more to certain people.
Women are often placed into lower paying technical roles rather than strategic roles (e.g. Software Tester vs. Software Developer). Where the highest paid jobs in tech are mostly held by men, it’s mainly women who work the lowest paid positions.
Businesses are often unaware that their unconscious biases are hindering their recruitment. They should engage their employees in training to limit bias in the workplace.
Having a family, should not hamper a woman’s promotion potential. Firms should actively encourage women to return to the workplace after maternity leave.
Correcting the gender gap starts with addressing young girls’ knowledge gap. Most schoolgirls have little insight into what jobs in IT involve. They also often hone in on the misconception that to work with technology means to be isolated and sedentary.
Change is happening
There are some fantastic initiatives to get more girls into IT, some of which include:
Code First: Girls is a social enterprise helping to increase diversity in tech by building communities and offering technical training to women.
BCSWomen provides networking opportunities and mentoring for professional women working in IT around the world.
#techmums aims to empower women through technology with free training, from basic IT skills, to online safety, to programming and app design.
However, we can’t rely on these organisations to fix the UK’s tech diversity issue. Meaningfully improving diversity in the tech industry is within reach but we need to take action.
If you would like to discuss the impact of a gender-diverse workforce, contact Jumar today.