The idea that men and women are “better” at different things starts when enter school. Research continues to support stereotypical views about what subjects different genders are likely to study, with boys often taking up science and girls choosing humanities.
Despite the un-helpful suggestions research implies about gender-based characteristics, these entrenched views and patterns have spilled into the world of work. Men are dominating areas of IT and tech employment, whilst women are more present, although not necessarily leading, in client facing industries such as public relations.
With the rise of digital business and the on-going march of AI dominance, the tech industry is becoming ever-important and far-reaching across all areas of employment. So, shouldn’t a broader tech industry mean a more diverse workforce?
Just how welcome do women feel in the hallowed halls of tech companies? And crucially, is the industry itself doing anything to encourage more of them to apply?
Despite more women working in tech generally, there is still a skills shortage in the digital sector, and the female recruitment pool remains in drought mode.
The Tech Partnership’s Women in IT Scorecard states that only 17% of all UK specialist technology jobs are held by women. Global tech giants do not fare any better when it comes to female employment. Only 20% of Google engineers are women.
Although these statistics may not seem promising, the fact this dismal status is being discussed showcases a positively shifting culture. We are highlighting it, we are talking about it, and at this early stage, giving airtime to pioneers and the companies that are getting it right is a good place to start.
Visibility: Female icons
When it comes to the traditionally male-dominated tech industry, women, as they do in other spheres of life, remain an underrepresented group. So how do you normalise the integration of minorities into a majority population?
You highlight the pioneers who have broken through representation barriers. This will allow like-minded and aspirational women to feel more able to apply for positions in tech – at least on an emotional level. This visibility begins with covering and commemorating the achievements of female founders such as Marta Krupinska, co-founder of money transfer app Azimo, and Wendy Tan MBE, CEO and founder of Moonfruit.
Highlighting inclusion idols in tech publications and company blogs shouldn’t be seen as a cheap recruitment drive. Without idols such as Martin Luther King, the civil rights movement may not have taken hold, and it’s the same (although on a lesser scale) with women in tech. Inclusion campaigners know that brand awareness and visibility makes for a stronger case – and recruiters should know it too.
Whilst such female figures instil inspiration in women candidates looking for jobs in tech, are they actually going for the jobs? There is evidence that the industry is sitting up and listening to female grievances about the industry, and this is key in making women as a group feel more confident about working in tech.
Last year, Vodafone implemented scanners to correct any gender bias in job posts. By amending the more “aggressive” and “stereotypically masculine” language to gender-neutral terms, the company experienced a 7% rise in female recruitment in the company.
To encourage more female applicants, and ensure loyalty to the company, tech employers must start with the way they recruit for positions, and employing gender-neutral language in job posts is a good start.
What companies can do
The Anita Borg Institute published a series of findings that reveal if tech employers invest in female development, gender training, and policies that support work flexibility, more women will feel confident in joining and remaining in the tech industry.
This includes the development of leadership programmes in which women can conceptualise and foster goal objectives, which helps them visualise the concept of career progression in an industry where women are relatively new.
Also included in the recommendations is in-house diversity training for male and female employees. Such a move, the research stipulates, could make male, as well as female employees, feel included in the diversification and inclusion drive.
Establishing company policies on flexible working hours was also noted to be important, where a high number of women in tech, and across many other industries, feel compromised and forced to leave their jobs if they have family or other caring responsibilities.