From education to employment

International Women’s Day 2024: Sector Response

The 8th of March marks International Women’s Day, this year the theme is Inspire Inclusion.

Encouraging everyone to understand and appreciate women’s involvement helps make the world better. When women feel inspired to be a part of things, they experience a strong sense of belonging, relevance, and empowerment.

Let’s all come together to create a world where women feel included, valued, and empowered.

Get involved with celebrating International Women’s Day on social media by sharing your stories and opinions using the hashtags: #IWD2024 and #InspireInclusion.

Check out the comments surrounding International Women’s Day down below.

Sector Response

Dimitra Simeonidou, Director of the Smart Internet Lab and Co-Director of Bristol Digital Futures Institute and Project Board Member at UKTIN said:

“It is not breaking news that women have been underrepresented in STEM for many years, both at university and industry level. In fact, women only make up to 34% of the workforce in STEM. However, the statistics did not scare me when starting my career as a woman in STEM – and this is a feeling I would love to share with young and aspiring scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians. 

“For me, studying Marie Curie’s life was the gateway to STEM because it demonstrated that this career is both possible and rewarding as a woman. My genuine love of research motivates me to get out of bed every morning. I find it rewarding to see discoveries emerge as a result of my research – which focuses on the development of telecommunications networks, including 5G, and smart city infrastructures – and how this leads to significant commercial impact.”

”One of my biggest career achievements has been mentoring PhD students. Seeing them complete their research, going on to hold key positions in businesses and academia, and contributing to the international technical community is very powerful. One of the key ways to increase gender diversity in STEM is by investing in young talent through mentoring them. For young talent, having a mentor they can look up to has a huge impact on their lives and their career choices, and that is something I want to celebrate this International Women’s Day.”

Jo Bishenden, Managing Director for Apprenticeships at QA, comments on the potential of apprenticeships and reskilling to help gender diversity in tech:

“Frustratingly,  women continue to be  underrepresented in STEM fields, both in terms of educational pursuits and professional careers. Whilst progress has been made, for certain subjects, such as computer science, the numbers remain stubbornly  low – in 2022/23 only 23% of students enrolled were female or non-binary. This underrepresentation can be attributed to a number of factors, including societal stereotypes, cultural expectations, lack of role models, and unintended bias in educational and workplace environments,  and so the Government and businesses must remain committed to overcoming these hurdles, and improving the imbalance. 

“Efforts have been made to address this gender imbalance, but as is often the way, this is easier said than done. International Women’s Day offers a moment, though, to reflect on what is working, and what more can be achieved. There have been a number of initiatives to encourage and support girls in pursuing STEM education and careers, which I welcome, as I believe that young women and other underrepresented groups are never going to see themselves pursuing careers in data, digital, tech or engineering when role models are lacking, and these industries still look overwhelmingly male and white. One part of the solution is  to  begin in the classroom, andreframe how children view STEM topics and allow teachers and children to explore topics that are relevant, enlightening and engaging. Key to this is bringing industry and businesses into the classroom and showcasing how accessible STEM careers via routes such as apprenticeships can be. The super-power of apprenticeships to create a pipeline of diverse talent to begin their digital careers is well understood, but often underused. It is clear that by actively recruiting and training women through apprenticeships, businesses will benefit from a  more balanced workforce.

“It is also important that women already in their careers shouldn’t feel held back by early decisions they may have made at a young age. It is important to remember that there is always another chance to develop a career path in the direction women want, through upskilling or reskilling. Businesses that build into their employee value proposition the opportunity to upskill or reskill (via apprenticeships) will quickly feel the benefit of attracting and retaining a diverse workforce and and consequently encourage women and other underrepresented groups to study STEM subjects with a view to working in the data, digital and tech industries.

“Building these upskilling and reskilling cultures  requires a more proactive approach from businesses. Businesses simply can’t wait for the skills gap to close by itself nor can they assume that hiring and promotion practices will address the imbalance  without intervention. Instead, businesses need to think about cultivating and investing in the talent they already have as well as opening their doors to  a broader talent pool than traditional education usually offers. If they do this, alongside having a business-wide approach to developing the capabilities  of their workforce in a way that is relevant to the goals of the business and the aspirations and abilities of their workforce talent, they will achieve success ”

Marisa Pereira, VP of People & Organization at Storyblok, emphasises the importance of genuine inclusion in the tech industry:

“In the world of digital and tech the challenge of fostering gender equality and broader diversity extends far beyond the superficiality of ticking off corporate compliance checkboxes. It’s about dismantling longstanding prejudices and creating an environment where every individual, regardless of gender, feels truly valued, seen, and heard.

“At Storyblok, we prioritise creating opportunities for all team members to thrive, regardless of their employment status or life circumstances. Whether someone is working part-time, returning from parental leave, or embarking on new professional endeavours, our focus is on their potential to contribute to and grow with us. We believe that a culture of inclusivity is not measured by the clock but by the quality of engagement, enthusiasm, and innovative thinking each person brings.

“This ethos of genuine inclusion and equality must permeate every level of our organisation, from our daily operations to our overarching mission. It’s about driving a culture of equality and inclusion that transcends traditional corporate frameworks and becomes the very essence of our brand identity.”

Daria Kepa-Green, Director of Marketing at insurtech Cytora, looks at the importance of a fully equal workplace:

“International Women’s Day is a good opportunity to have a look at the progress we have made in the tech industry. The picture, for the most part, is quite mixed. Initiatives to promote gender equality and diversity are at an all time high, and there has been a notable change in startup culture. We are a long way from the ‘tech bro’ problems of five years ago and now I think the tech industry is one of the best sectors for women to work in. However, we shouldn’t be complacent. There’s growing evidence of a backlash from a growing number of men who feel that the drive towards gender equality has tipped the scales against them. This is why I think we need to evolve the conversation within tech to talk more about promoting a fully equal workplace for every group. Issues such as work-life balance, fair pay and promotions, flexible working, and training and development options are important to nearly everybody and are the key to giving everybody equal opportunities in the workplace. If we do solve these problems I think we will improve some of the more systemic imbalances within the tech industry – such as the underrepresentation of women and minority groups in senior management and leadership positions.” 

Olga Noha, Chief Marketing Officer, SplitMetrics, comments on diversity in martech: 

“The marketing industry has traditionally been a place where women are well represented. However, this diversity has not necessarily translated to the marketing technology sector. For many years it suffered from the same problems as the wider tech sector – a discriminatory culture, lack of women and minorities in leadership and poor overall diversity. Thankfully, in recent years a lot of this has changed. Women and other underrepresented groups are growing and, for the most part, workplace cultures have been transformed for the better. However, there is still a lot more that needs to be done. The number of women entering the tech industry is still far too small and the number of startups founded and led by women is woefully inadequate. If you look at the number of female VCs and investment in female-founded startups you can see just how big the gap really is. 

“The marketing technology sector has the potential to showcase how we can really achieve equality in the tech industry. There are a lot of talented women in marketing that, if given the right encouragement and support, could start their companies or find senior positions at martech startups. International Women’s Day is the ideal time to bang the drum for more women to become entrepreneurs or make the transition from traditional marketing companies into startups. I believe this can be achieved by talking less about the problems of underrepresentation and more about the opportunities for women within tech.”  

Karin Örarbäck, Chief Marketing Officer at Amrax, comments on the need for a culture of care and inclusion:  

“It’s widely understood that we are in a digital skills gap crisis. A recent Microsoft study found that 65% of hiring managers worldwide report difficulty finding qualified digital talent. Elsewhere, a new index published by Lloyds Bank revealed nearly 7.5 million people do not have the required digital skills for the workplace. 

“Armed with such statistics, the need for greater gender equality in tech must become a key priority if we want to solve the skills gap and ensure a healthy outlook. After all, despite the progress made in recent years, the reality is that women are still underrepresented in the startup scene, take up far less senior positions and are considerably less likely to work within the tech industry long-term. That’s almost half of the workforce we could be missing out on. 

“International Women’s Day is the perfect time for us to reflect on why there is such underrepresentation and consider how we can do more to redress the balance. Ultimately, we need to actually live equality and not just discuss it. A look at Scandinavia makes these differences in Europe all too clear. Northern Europe is a step ahead in these areas. What is clear is that the current approach isn’t working. “

“A common belief is that the lack of available women to staff tech positions starts in the classroom, with girls traditionally discouraged from entering what are perceived to be more ‘manly’ occupations and therefore less inclined to enrol in Science, Engineering, Technology and Maths (STEM) subjects. While this is slowly changing, with more girls taking STEM subjects than ever before, it has limited the amount of available female talent thus far. There is an element of chicken and egg. How can young women feel comfortable pursuing a career in an industry where it is mostly all men and gender disparity in rife? At the same time, how can we close the skills gap and address the imbalance if we are unable to even get women through the front door? 

“I believe a huge part of this lies in curating a culture of inclusion. As an industry, we need to take a much closer look at how we recruit and promote talent and be sure to remove any unconscious bias by basing decisions on facts, such as metrics and performance data. To help with the challenges some women may face working in a male-orientated environment, organisations need to build an infrastructure to support women and other minorities, with leadership education, access to a support network and other dedicated resources. This should be supported with a maternity policy and flexible working policy, which negates the risk of the ‘motherhood penalty’ seeping in.  Tech employers should also consider hiring and promoting women into leadership roles. This is an easy way to shift culture and help to set a more inclusive tone.

“Perhaps most of all though, it comes down to building a culture of care.  All too often, especially in the busy tech scene, it can be all too easy to have all these great gender equality and diversity initiatives, only to get swept up in the latest NPD or pitch. This is a mistake. From my experience, creating an environment where all employees, including women, feel valued, heard and able to bring their full selves to work in the knowledge that their employer genuinely cares is critical.”

Ekaterina Sirazitdinova, Senior Deep Learning Data Scientist at NVIDIA:

“Growing up in eastern Europe, I was often told that as a woman I’d find it hard to compete in technology. But the truth is that a career in tech can be challenging for everyone, regardless of their gender.

“To break gender bias in tech, we need to implement inclusive hiring practices, promote diverse candidates into leadership roles, and provide equal opportunities for developing skills. I feel very happy at Nvidia, a company that implements these practices very effectively.

Sinead McHale, CEO, at Satago

“International Women’s Day isn’t simply a day to celebrate the incredible achievements of women around the world and recognise the progress we’ve made; but also, to reflect on the work that still lies ahead in achieving true gender equality. We’ve seen remarkable strides towards inclusivity and diversity with women now holding 42.1% of board positions at Britain’s largest listed companies, marking significant progress from 24.5% in 2017. However, there’s still much ground to cover.

“In fintech, women continue to be underrepresented in leadership positions, with only around 10% holding board seats. That’s why it’s crucial for companies like ours to not only champion women in leadership but also actively work towards creating an environment where all individuals, regardless of gender, have equal opportunities to thrive.

“As a female CEO, I’m committed to fostering a culture of inclusivity within our company and the wider fintech community. We prioritise diversity in hiring, mentorship programs for women in tech, and ongoing education on unconscious bias. But beyond internal initiatives, we’re dedicated to using our platform to empower women entrepreneurs and support initiatives that promote financial literacy and independence among women worldwide.

“At Satago, we understand the importance of diversity not just as a buzzword, but as a fundamental cornerstone of success and progress. By harnessing the unique perspectives and talents of individuals from all backgrounds, including women, we can drive innovation, foster creativity, and ultimately deliver better solutions for our customers.”

Dr. Maren Ingrid Kropfeld – Professor for Sustainability & Entrepreneurship and Program Director Impact MBA at Tomorrow University:

“As an advocate for both sustainability and entrepreneurship, I firmly believe that representation is crucial for women in leadership: it fosters a sense of possibility and inspires others to chase their ambitions. However, true success lies not just in following someone else’s path, but in discovering your own unique voice and pursuing what ignites your passion. Remember, the journey is just as important as the destination, so find mentors who inspire you, learn from their experiences, and don’t be afraid to forge your own path. This way, we live in a future where leadership reflects diverse tapestry of our world.”

Alex Tempest, Managing Director, BT Wholesale:

International Women’s Day is a great opportunity to celebrate the progress made in female representation in the tech industry, whilst also reflecting on where improvements are needed across the sector.

It serves as a clear reminder how women must continue to fight for a space at the table. In the technology industry, we are privileged to serve a diverse customer base, and reflecting this diversity within our sector is crucial to our success. In particular, we must support women in tech looking to step into leadership roles, where representation is undoubtedly fundamental. In 2023, only 28% of technology leaders were women. If employees can’t see themselves reflected in a company’s leadership team it can create a glass ceiling that limits their career.  So, whilst attitudes are changing and DE&I policies have become much more commonplace – with leaders now seeing them as a key part of business strategy– there’s still a long way to go.

If we want girls and young women to pursue a career in technology, it’s up to today’s leaders to create inclusive environments and drive forward initiatives that will allow women to excel; for example, by improving the mentorship opportunities available to women.”

Angie Ma, co-founder, Faculty:

“As a female founder, I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by a supportive network of individuals. Throughout my journey, many remarkable people have generously offered invaluable advice, imparted wisdom and provided opportunities.  

Similar to in any profession, founders face common challenges. To address these, I regularly meet with a diverse group of founders, both male and female. For almost seven years, we have been openly discussing our hurdles and celebrating our achievements. This network serves as a safe space for inspiration for solutions to my challenges, learning from others’ experiences which have helped me grow professionally and personally.  

Activities like this take time and commitment, but the benefits are immeasurable. Often, women tend to prioritise others over themselves, inadvertently neglecting to invest in building their networks or participating in developmental activities. I encourage all women, regardless of their career stage, to really focus on their own development, taking it seriously and assuming full ownership of their professional growth.  

Being resourceful and adept at overcoming challenges can significantly accelerate career progression. Establishing and nurturing a professional support network not only provides tangible benefits but also fosters a strong sense of support.”

Camellia Chan, CEO and co-founder, Flexxon:

“I’ve been fortunate enough to be surrounded by people who have been incredibly supportive from day one, but I know that’s not the reality for a lot of women, especially in a male-dominated industry like technology. That’s why celebrations like International Women’s Day are so important. It fosters collaboration, communication and encourages workplaces to evaluate whether all employees feel comfortable being themselves, regardless of their background. 

This is crucial because women are still underrepresented in technology, and the cybersecurity sector doesn’t fare much better. As cyber threats continue to increase rapidly, and cybercriminals become more sophisticated, empowered by advanced technology like AI, there’s a huge gap in the cybersecurity workforce. In fact, 4 million more people are needed.  

Cybersecurity leaders can help to close this gap by supporting women looking to join the industry. That could mean encouraging innovation by creating a safe space to fail such as an R&D lab, investing in mentorship and education programmes, or spearheading diversity and inclusion policies that open up a dialogue to ensure every employee is welcomed. This will not only enable a larger workforce to take on cyber threats, but also create  one with diversity of thought so it can keep people safe through constant innovation.” 

Kelly Titterington Wells, Vice President – Global Operations at Object First:

“Women make up 28% of the tech workforce with 25% representation at the C-Level. According to research by Morgan Stanley companies with diversity, including gender diversity, have outperformed their peers by 1.2% per year. So, the question is ‘What can business do to better support women?”

Ask for input, opinion, and feedback: women tend to get talked over more often and given less opportunities to speak. Ask women for their input, allow them space to provide their opinion, and seek their feedback on strategic efforts. 

Remove negative labels: women with strong voices and opinions get labelled as bossy and soft spoken and observant women get labelled as weak. We need to stop and remove these negative labels and focus on results.

Offer growth opportunities: women are motivated to advance their skills and drive value. Look for opportunities that will enhance their skills and career potentials. If you do not offer these opportunities women find a company that does.

Prioritise professional development: offering professional development and mentorship programs will attract talented women to your organisation and provide them the opportunity they are looking for – the opportunity to excel. We need to make a more concerted effort to get more women into leadership roles; my daughter deserves it.”

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