#ChooseToChallenge - #InternationalWomensDay enables us to celebrate women’s achievements, raise awareness of inequality issues and highlight the benefits of an inclusive world. Unfortunately, the events of the last year have cast a worrying light on gender progress.
Indeed, whilst interest in technology careers has risen since the pandemic, with more than one in five of all workers having undertaken tech training since spring, only 3% of girls and women say a tech career is their first job choice. Furthermore, just 16% said they’d ever had it suggested to them as an option – compared with a third of males. This needs to change.
This International Women’s Day, we spoke to nine female technology experts, to learn about their own experiences and advice to other women and discover what organisations can do to better support women’s progress in the fight for gender parity.
Is the technology industry a ‘man’s world’?
With men dominating higher managerial positions in the technology sector, there has been no shortage of calls for greater female empowerment in the industry.
“When I look back at my career in the IT industry, I can recall times where women’s ideas and opinions were dismissed only to be received positively when presented by their male counterparts,” said Donna Cooper, Global Marketing Director at WhereScape.
“Women openly criticised for “leaving their children” and “putting work first”; men promoted and awarded a higher salary over women despite having less experience and industry knowledge.”
Hannah Fowler, Global Operations Director (EMEA and Internal Operations) at Globalization Partners experience echoes Donna’s:
“Every woman I know talks about being underestimated at some point in their lives due to gender based ‘assumptions’, implicit biases and disguised ‘excuses’ all of which present tangible yet often invisible obstacles.
“Underestimating anyone in any scenario is hurtful and damaging. It is a product of ignorance and lack of courage particularly when it is the result of discrimination on the basis of an individuals’ ‘characteristics’, their appearance, their voice, their ‘demographics’, their woman-ness.”
Debra Danielson, Chief Technology Officer & SVP of Engineering at Digital Guardian, agrees that obstacles remain for women in tech:
“As an industry, we still have serious pipeline problems in getting girls and young women to be interested in the tech industry and STEM. We have problems attracting and keeping female university students interested in computer science.
"We have problems recruiting and hiring enough women, retaining women beyond mid-career in tech, keeping women in tech careers and not shifting them out. We have pay parity and promotion equity problems and we have to constantly fight pervasive expectations that women aren’t as technical as men.”
Redressing the balance
Whilst there are many male allies, as well as women, striving for greater gender equality, in the technology sector women make up just 5% of leadership positions. Furthermore, research from Mercer found that men in high-tech companies earn 25% more than women.
Madelene Campos, Software Developer at BrightGauge, a ConnectWise solution, argues that to help address this, organisations need to work with their HR teams to ensure that their employees, regardless of gender, are receiving equal pay and benefits:
“We need to encourage more women to consider opting for a career in tech. Joining a support group that is inclusive and can give advice is a great way to get one’s foot in the door. There are many organisations that focus and support underrepresented groups in tech, such as PyLadies and RailsGirls. Even if women don’t want to code, there are so many other opportunities within tech. It’s important to understand that no one is born with tech skills. Learning how to solve problems, think critically and, at the very least, grow an awareness of what is happening in the tooling we use on a daily basis, is definitely worth the time and effort.”
“To help redress the balance, companies should put in place processes and programs that actively encourage women to come forward,” adds Rajlakshmi Pandey, iOS Developer at Eagle Eye Networks.
“These include things like internship programs for university students with flexible hours to accommodate ongoing studies and allocating headcount for women in technical roles.”
“I’m fortunate because I’ve been able to turn my passion for computer science, and specifically my interest in Apple iOS, into a satisfying and exciting career. I’d like everyone – men and women alike – to have similar opportunities too, and that’s why I’m an avid supporter of initiatives like International Women’s Day.”
Bolstering female talent
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day - #ChooseToChallenge - hails the notion that from challenge comes change. Investing in female talent through learning and development is crucial if organisations are to change the balance of our boardrooms.
Michelle Fitzgerald, Director of Demand Gen and Event at Plutora, explains how women should also take the time to invest in their own development.
“I find that my biggest ongoing challenge has been making the time to invest in myself, both professionally and personally. Taking time to advance skill sets, learn new things and to just recharge tends to take a back seat in the fast-paced world we’re living in. This year, making it a priority to set aside time has improved my balance and allowed for growth.”
She continues: “At the end of the day, it comes down investing in yourself and connecting with others. Develop the skills you need to get to where you want to be. Then trust in your intuition but be open to asking for help and insight when you need it.”
“One way to demonstrate that female talent is being identified, nurtured and promoted is by having visibility of women in leadership positions,” advises Kate Mollett, Regional Director, Commvault Africa.
“As a result of this, we may attract young aspiring female technologists to consider Commvault as an employer of choice and worthy of their consideration when looking for a role in the IT industry. It should in turn give Commvault access to a broader talent pool.”
The benefit of diversity
Workplace diversity - be it in respect to gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation or other - can bring huge benefits to tech companies. “By embracing a more diverse talent pool we address talent shortages and progress to closing the talent supply/demand gap,” highlights Kasia Kulma, Senior Data Scientist – Team Lead at Mango Solutions (an Ascent company).
“More fundamentally, though, diversity brings a variety of perspectives, which has a knock-on effect in increased creativity and thus faster problem-solving and improved products. But it’s not only products that can improve this way, the company culture can, too. Helping employees feel included, no matter their background or gender, can break down barriers and reduce the fear of being rejected. This is a great way to empower your employees and harness their ideas and thoughts. And in addition, almost as a side benefit, attract more great talent.”
“Every business can benefit from gender diversity, and that’s why it’s crucial to encourage more girls to study STEM at school and university,” Fiona Hound, Pre Sales Director at Totalmobile, concludes.
“From development and testing to pre-sales and more customer-facing roles, there are more options in a career in tech than they might think.
“One of the most important ways to encourage more girls into technology is visibility – actually seeing other women in a variety of roles – showing them that it can be done and women can thrive in these careers. Many organisations have been set up to work with schools and businesses to show girls what a career in tech could look like, such as Women Who Code, which a number of our staff are passionately involved in. Getting female developers, engineers and senior leaders to talk to young women and girls about their jobs and highlighting that tech can be exciting and engaging is hugely powerful.”