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It’s no secret that tech is a male-dominated industry. In fact, recent research has shown that only 17% of employees in the UK tech sector are female, and it’s also been revealed that men in tech companies earn 25% more than women.
There a number of reasons for this persistent lack of diversity: from tradition around stereotypically ‘male’ roles, to the ‘glass ceiling’ that stops women reaching senior levels, to early gendered stereotypes that push boys into STEM and girls into the arts.
Thankfully, there are many global initiatives aimed at helping women and girls get into – and stay in – the tech sector, and this Business Women’s Day (22 September 2018), we want to celebrate those schemes and initiatives, as well as the women in tech who are making waves and carving the way for future generations.
Coding is the future
Although there’s a lack of women in all areas of the tech industry, there’s a particular lack of female software developers and engineers. Indeed, according to the ONS, only 3.9% of the entire tech and telecoms industry is made up of female software developers and engineers– down from 10% in 2007.
To help combat this, there is a range of organisations and programmes across the world which aim to help girls learn and fall in love with coding from a young age. Code First: Girls, for example, helps young women develop technical skills such as coding; connects them with a community of like-minded women and companies who can support their professional development; and helps companies develop their hiring and talent management processes so they don’t miss out on amazing female tech talent.
Female advocacy is key
Getting women into tech isn’t as simple as teaching them how to code or developing a passion for STEM in them at a young age. As the adage goes: you can’t be what you can’t see. If we want more women in tech at all levels, we need women who are already in the industry to speak up, reach out to emerging talent and show them that it’s possible to succeed in tech, regardless of your gender.
Thankfully, there’s no shortage of inspiring women in tech – both past and present – to look to for inspiration. Take Sister Mary Kenneth Keller, who became the first woman in history to obtain a PhD in computer science and who went on to run a computer science department at a Catholic women’s college. Or founder of Sterling Bank, Anne Boden, who has led the digital banking revolution following the 2007 financial crash. There are countless women in tech who have broken down barriers for generations to come.
Gender isn’t everything ….
Breaking into the tech industry as a woman can feel daunting – not only are the statistics stacked against you, but even if you do manage to get a foot in the door and climb the ladder, there can be a lingering feeling that people perceive you as there to meet a quota.
The important thing to remember is that you are more than your gender. Focus on the real things that set you apart from the rest: your intelligence, your perseverance and your outstanding technical and professional skills.
… But equality is
While gender isn’t everything, it has been shown that gender equality (and equality for all minorities, such as BAME) is incredibly important from a business perspective.
A 2015 McKinsey report found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15% more likely to have above-average financial returns. Similarly, a University of California study found that large companies with women at the top performed considerably better than companies with mostly male boards and executives.
Of course, the benefits of diversity go way beyond financial success. Diverse teams are more likely to identify – and solve – a wider range of products, and bring their own unique insights to companies and help them think creatively and develop products and services that appeal to a wider range of customers.
Gender equality, therefore, isn’t just a ‘nice-to-have’ – it’s a necessity if businesses want to rise to the top of their highly competitive industry.