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The State of Women in Technology

Date: 25 September 2015

The lack of talent in technology industries – specifically, female talent – is not necessarily a new issue but it is, unfortunately, one that is still prevalent and still requires addressing even in 2015. For women looking to either enter the profession or progress their career, the gender divide is particularly harrowing for those expecting a more diverse and representative workforce.

An article published by the Huffington Post only last month states that there are around 6.5 million people working in the tech industry in the US alone; and yet only 15% of these employees are female. While this statistic increases when looking at only the most influential US technology companies – Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and Intel – still less than a third (29%) of the workforce is female. In Europe, less than 7% of tech positions are filled by women.

"There are around 6.5 million people working in the tech industry in the US alone;
yet only 15% of these employees are female"
Huffington Post

In the UK, the statistics for women employed in tech roles seem to be getting worse, with only 27% of the global digital workforce consisting of women – down from a third in 2002 according to the UK Commission for Employment and Skills. Levels aren’t expected to rise to 30% until the year 2022.

"The gender gap differs depending on the sector
and industry in question within tech services"

The gender gap differs depending on the sector and industry in question within tech services. As statistics from LinkedIn show, women hold 20.9% of leadership roles within the tech industry overall. When this is broken down into specific tech industries, however, the figure shrinks. In computer software roles they hold only 20.2% of leadership roles; in computer hardware roles this drops to 18% and in computer and network security roles this dips to 16.5%. E-learning was the area of tech in which women were best represented, but even in this sector leadership positions held were just over a third (34.2%), despite women holding 47.5% of roles overall.

But it’s not just the proportion of women employed in tech roles that is drawing criticism – the gender pay divide is still alive and well in the 21st Century, with women averaging a salary 11% lower than their male counterparts.

The gender pay divide is still prevalent, with women averaging
a salary 11% lower than their male counterparts.

While the tech industry is currently booming and is arguably a safe financial bet for candidates looking for stable opportunities with scope for progression, women are simply not benefitting.

What are the solutions?

There are a number of initiatives currently underway to try and entice more women to enter the tech industry. Not only are education programmes encouraging more women in the classroom to pursue tech careers, more is also being done to welcome them into the industry, with female-centric schools and classes becoming more popular and gaining real traction. Coding schools in particular are enabling young women with typically no previous experience to gain an understanding of basic programming skills; similarly, educational institutions are actively trying to rebalance the gender divide by hosting women-focused events and setting up internships for underrepresented groups.

The championing of female role models within the industry is also picking up, as is the challenging of negative female stereotypes. Notable women in the industry such as Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo!, and Susan Wojcicki, the CEO of YouTube are all active in drawing attention to the need for more women in tech and the role both businesses and women themselves can play to change the situation.

"The onus lies on business, women and men to close the gender gap"

In order to bring balance to each of these sectors and the wider tech industry, the onus lies on both the businesses, the women seeking change and even men within the tech industry. Businesses need to understand that it’s not necessarily a lack of female tech that is stopping them from hitting diversity quotas (although some experts have stated that there is a pipeline problem, this should be addressed in the next few years as the current female tech students enter the workforce); there are a number of steps businesses can take themselves to even the score.

1. Accurate Job Descriptions

Firstly, it is important to understand how to attract female talent seeking employment opportunities. Ensuring that job descriptions are accurate and representative of the role is important, as women tend to place a lot of significance on business transparency. One factor that often holds women back from entering the tech industry or aiming for senior level tech roles is a belief that they do not have the skills required; if a job description and language used is accurate and detailed about what is expected, with less of a focus on specific skills and more of a steer toward the flexibility within a role, then more women will be likely to apply.

2. Understanding of Opportunities Available

Internal recruiters also need to have open conversations with female talent about what doors their skills and experience can open for them, as often a lack of understanding means candidates have little idea of what opportunities are within their reach.

3.   Referrals!

Alongside this, stats from Glassdoor have shown that 48% of female software engineers are likely to apply for a job at a company recommended by a friend –word of mouth and honesty are important factors in attracting potential candidates.

4.   Flexible Working Hours

Similarly, flexible working hours are absolutely key in drawing in more applications from female talent. The beauty of the tech industry is that often employees need not be in the office five days a week as advancements in technology make working from home or remotely a viable option. Businesses need to be more active in promoting this kind of workplace culture, but they also need to highlight that this isn’t only a female requirement; male employees can also benefit from flexible working and this should also be addressed to stop workplace discrimination.

"Potential candidates need to not be afraid to ask for what they want"

And this reflects back on the women themselves. Potential candidates need to not be afraid to ask for what they want – whether that be flexible working or a promotion – and should have confidence in their abilities. More encouragement is needed from recruiters to put female talent forward for roles, from businesses in supporting existing female employees and from other women in the industry in sponsoring young talent.

Only with a confidence-driven, ‘go-for-it’ attitude from both companies and the women themselves will the gender divide begin to close. The men that dominate the tech industry need to push for equality as much as the women; as Sheryl Sandberg famously stated: “No industry or country can reach its full potential until women reach their full potential. This is especially true of science and technology.”

“No industry or country can reach its full potential until women reach their full potential.
This is especially true of science and technology.”
Sheryl Sandberg - COO of Facebook

For more information on what can be done to attract female talent and what roles are available to women in the tech industry, we here at Glocomms are able to offer expert advice and consultancy services on the subject. Contact the Glocomms team today to receive further details.

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