International Women’s Day – a time to celebrate, reflect and take action. While progress is being made for women in many industries with 2017’s #MeToo movement only growing more prominent in the public domain, what has the future in store for women in tech?
This year, the campaign theme for International Women’s Day is #BalanceForBetter. This theme was taken on board to create a global push for professional and social equality. Channelling a “business issue”, this theme aims to tackle gender imbalance not only in boardrooms, but also portrayal in the media. #BalanceforBetter has been promoted through social media with people using a balancing pose to raise awareness.
Most people are aware of the issues surrounding women in tech but how do we #BalanceforBetter? Trailblazing feminist, political activist and journalist Gloria Steinem, once explained “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.” Today is all about unity, celebration, reflection, advocacy and action to create a #BalanceforBetter and create awareness to eliminate gender disparity.
Let’s face it, women are underrepresented in technology, with PwC reporting that women only account for 15% of employees in the UK tech workforce. If you’re looking at a leadership position the situation is even worse, with 5% of higher up positions in tech being held by women. Although gender pay gap is cited as the main reason for inequality in tech, the problem goes back to early years where gender stereotypes are still rife. Despite women and men performing similarly in STEM subjects, the OECD quoted that more boys consider a career in the STEM field from an earlier age than girls do. A recent report from the Department of Education suggests that girls’ participation in Physics is especially low, accounting for only 1.3% of female A-Level entries, as opposed to 5.7% of male A-level entries. The trend continues into further education, where women are less likely to study tech based degrees at university, thus creating an imbalance in the talent pool available to employers.
How do we fix this?
Everyone has to be a part of the movement for change, not just women – it’s up to the top dogs of the tech industry including men in leadership positions to facilitate change and encourage more women into tech. Promoting more women into senior leadership roles is shown to encourage females to join tech companies, showing a sign of supporting women’s career progression and helping to facilitate higher percentage of #WomeninTech. Gender diversity in tech companies is proven to benefit the profitability of an organisation – Fortune 500 companies with the highest number of female directors have a 42% greater return on sales than those with the lowest representation.
Without understanding the past, can we really change the course of the future? As George Santayana famously wrote “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” Serious work still needs to be done to encourage women into tech roles, however the future looks bright as several organisations are tackling the imbalance head on.
One of our favourite organisations, founded by the pioneering Amali de Alwis is Code First: Girls, a social enterprise dedicated to changing the face of the UK tech industry – through the root cause of the issue, education. Over the past five years, an excess of 10,000 women have been taught to code for free through the organisation, who are aiming for this number to double by 2020. Statistics show that only 3,750 students accepted onto a Computer Science course were women, so imagine what could happen if 20,000 more tech savvy women become leaders in the field and lead towards a #BalanceforBetter. Not only will this change the landscape of the UK economy, but hopefully help to put an end to the tech gender gap once and for all!
To continue the International Women’s Day celebrations we have ‘Tech (K)now day” on Saturday 9th March from 9-5 in London. This event has been created to provide a place for all individuals who identify as women to learn new tech skills and of course keeping with this years theme: #BalanceForBetter. If you are a startup or a women founder then you should take a look at applying here: http://www.bit.ly/techknowdayspace for a free exhibition space, grab it whilst it’s hot as it won’t last long! Even if you do not fit the profile of target attendees help them by forwarding and sharing it with the tech loving women of the world. You can be involved in hand-on workshops made for beginners or experts, tailored exactly for your skill set technical knowledge! Tech (K)now day will also include lots of interesting talks from different companies such as: Expedia, Twitter and Google.
With gender pay gap and the percentage of women in STEM still on the downfall it is imperative that we all do more to increase the equality for women and strive towards a #BalanceforBetter.