Does Silicon Roundabout need a “self-imposed” target for women on boards?

According to international professional services consultancy Procorre just 18 per cent of directors of technology firms at the East London-based high growth business hub are women.

That is significantly lower than the representation of women on the boards of FTSE 100 companies, where 24 per cent of directors are women.

The government-backed target for the representation of women on FTSE 100 boards is 25 per cent with growing pressure on firms to ramp up the numbers of females in executive roles as well.

Wiktor Podgorski, contracts and HR manager at Procorre, said that although it is recognised that women are under-represented in the sector, the figures demonstrate the scale of the issue and the huge effort that is needed to address the problem.

He said there were less women in senior levels than across the industry as a whole, stating that women make up 27 per cent of the total digital workforce, down from 33 per cent in 2002.

Podgorski said: “There is undoubtedly a shortage of female graduates with the right qualifications to go into the digital industries but the gender gap in Silicon Roundabout cannot be explained by that alone. Women make up 38 per cent of maths graduates, which could easily be a stepping stone into a career in software development. But in fact, only half of female graduates of science, technology, engineering subjects go into STEM careers compared, with 68 per cent of their male peers from the same course.”

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He said technology-based industries seemed “unable to attract the female talent available and we have to look at the reasons why”.

To ensure that women are better represented at top levels new measures may need to be considered, he added. This could include a self-imposed target for the industry, similar to the target for the FTSE 100 and initiatives to dispel the misconception that start-up and high-growth tech companies are hostile to female employees.

“Self-imposed targets seem to be working in the FTSE 100 – they could also help the tech sector to raise its game,” Podgorski said. “For Silicon Roundabout’s concentration of high growth companies there is also a need to reassure women that they are not hostile places to work. 

“The last recession proved that job security at larger businesses is not necessarily better than at smaller businesses. And although startups are definitely demanding environments they can also offer great flexibility. The lack of ingrained corporate culture and open management structures mean that women can be very demanding in setting their working patterns.”

Bucking the trend – Procorre hailed the following female digital pioneers for becoming a force in the sector:

  • Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, appointed in 2012;
  • Joanna Shields, former head of Tech City UK, now working as Minister for Internet Safety and Security for the UK Government;
  • Meg Whitman, president of IT firm Hewlett Packard;
  • Peng Lei, co-founder of Alibaba, Chinese ecommerce firm;
  • Marissa Ann Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, appointed in 2012;
  • Sara Murray OBE, founder of confused.com; and
  • Kathryn Parsons, CEO of Decoded, the coded training centre.

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