Women continue to be a minority in most tech firms, despite many attempts to promote equality and diversity in the sector. So we went right to the coal face, to see what will make it happen.
Erin Dyker is software development team lead at Novarum DX, headquartered in Edinburgh. The smartphone diagnostics specialist has developed pioneering technology which empowers users to read and share results of rapid tests, using nothing more than the smartphone in their pocket.
Joining Novarum with a first-class honours degree in 2014, Erin quickly climbed the ranks and was promoted to the position as team lead, having delivered on the potential that the embryonic Novarum management team identified.
Erin’s fascination with technology started at a young age when she was first introduced to computer programming in her early teens. Erin went on to pursue her passion further and later studied Ethical Hacking at the University of Abertay, Dundee.
During university, Erin was one of only three females in a class of approx. 70 students – an unflattering statistic that reflects some of the widespread gender disparities within the tech industry. Currently, the number of women working in technology is significantly lower than most other UK work sectors. According to womenintech.com, only 17 per cent of those working in UK tech are female.
Passionate about promoting greater gender equality within the sector, Erin is pressing for more young women to consider the rewarding career opportunities on offer. Erin took time out from a busy schedule to discuss five top tips for tech companies that are looking to recruit and retain female employees:
1) Company Culture
Promoting inclusivity and gender diversity at every level of the business is essential. Having female representation that is both visible and accessible is a major factor in the decision-making process for young women when applying for jobs. For prospective employees, an inclusive and welcoming culture is important – nowhere more so than in the tech sector.
A common misconception about the tech industry is that it’s still very much a ‘boy’s club’. This simply isn’t the case anymore. Every workplace should offer a safe and secure environment for its employees and establish a culture that will enable staff to develop personally and professionally.
2) Provide female role models
Having female leaders to look up to in any organisation is important. For young women at the start of their career, having a female role model in the workplace provides a clear indication that there are progression opportunities available.
By championing women and developing their professional skills, positive role models are provided for both current employees and new starters, and this demonstrates what is possible in a tech career. Overcoming stereotypical views of an industry traditionally dominated by men will be vital to attract more women into the sector.
Entry and mid-level females should be able to see clear progression pathways within a company, so it’s crucial that these routes remain open and accessible to them.
3) Communication is key
Effective communication in any workplace should be a two-way street between leadership and staff. It may be an interesting exercise to speak to your current employees and get their thoughts on ways you could attract more women into the office.
Listening to your staff will allow greater insight into what’s happening in your business and may generate some useful ideas for how you can boost the recruitment and retention of women in the workplace.
If there are already females in senior positions at your company - promote their stories and celebrate their success! By sharing their own journeys into the tech sector, it may give another woman with the same ambition, the confidence to apply for that sought-after tech job.
4) Support female development
If tech companies really want to attract and retain top female talent, they must support talent development. Organising activities such as career coaching, mentoring and delegating responsibility to your female team members will support their progression and ensure that they’re being given the necessary experience and skills to develop their careers.
Networking groups can hold many benefits for a business, allowing staff to make new connections and build the company’s reputation. Look out for any female networking groups within the tech sector, or business community, that your staff could join and help them to start building their own contact base for the future.
5) Engage at a younger level
Engaging with young women in tech is essential towards closing the gender divide. Providing role models, encouraging collaboration and providing opportunities for students to learn more about this exciting industry will be key to ensuring that more females consider a career in tech.
If not already doing so, it’s always a good idea for employers to offer more work experience/internship opportunities to young women to help them get experience for the sector and learn how welcoming the industry is to new talent first-hand.
In 10 years’ time, we’ll be looking at a completely different gender landscape across the tech sector, with a lot more women holding senior and highly influential roles – and that is a very exciting prospect!
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