Rebecca Monk, HR Director, Softcat
The research speaks for itself; women are still a minority in the tech world and the latest international study conducted by Harvey Nash and KPMG, revealed the number of female leaders in senior IT roles is just 9%.
It’s obvious that steps are being taken to diminish the gender gap - with the UK Government launching a new Tech Talent Charter - but progress remains slow.
It’s difficult to cut through all the media hype surrounding today’s “women in tech problem”, but it’s time women take a stand to lead the way in gender equality across the industry.
Their experiences and perspectives are much needed to provide insights into how to solve the issue and communicate why equal representation really matters.
The statistics – business leaders take note!
Decades of research findings show that organisations lacking female employees are losing out on diverse thought, innovation, and revenue.
It’s not just equality campaigners that have noticed this. Investors are becoming anxious companies aren’t representing their customer demographics too.
The turnover of digital industries isn’t under threat(£170 billion in 2015), but according to McKinsey Global Institute, the workplace UK gender gap is projected to cost the economy £150 billion by 2025 in missed gross value added.
Just think how high the results could be if the potential of women was being fully realised.
Improving internal recruitment
HR and recruitment specialists own the responsibility to entice the widest pool of candidates possible. Calling out unconscious bias is imperative, but the connection between men and technology is so entrenched in our minds it’s easy to make snap gender judgements, without even knowing it.
At Softcat, we do lack female applicants for technical roles and we have realised the problem could lie with where we’re advertising and how we’re describing positions. We’re beginning to consider how we can apply a consistent and thoughtful system across the talent acquisition process, so we avoid inadvertently eliminating the best candidates.
There are online tools to check whether the wording of job adverts appeals more to men than women. Try alternative wording to see if this generates differences in your applicant pool.
We’re also starting mentorship schemes which match female employees with senior female mentors to help inspire and develop mutual respect.
Men aren’t the only competition
A report by the ONS found more than three-quarters of administrative jobs are done by women. Due to developments in automation, it is these roles which are most under threat, as it’s predicted a worrying, 7.1 million people will be made redundant by disruptive tech by 2020 as it removes the need for actual humans in office and administrative roles.
It’s not unreasonable to extrapolate from this, women might not just be competing against men at work, but tech itself could become a barrier to success in the not-so-distant future.
The tech industry has an essential role to play in not preserving current gender inequalities and instead of having separate conversations regarding ‘women in tech’ and wider gender inequality, the two must take place simultaneously, as they’re so closely aligned.
Tech businesses need to move with the times and arm women with equal opportunities and the chance to enjoy the advantages of this accelerating and highly-paid industry.
For the next female boss
While it’s vital to ensure an equal share of female voices is promoted across the tech sector, we also need to address escalating fears around ‘tokenism.’ This is when women are endorsed as the face of an organisation, but, are in reality the exception to the rule.
Highlighting the same few exceptional women will actually hinder the progress of future female leaders, as it fails to highlight the breadth of talent across the industry and prevents other women gaining recognition.
One solution could be to inspire more male employees to attend women in tech events. This enables them to hear first-hand about the experiences and challenges these women are faced with daily. It is these insights, which will help senior management understand how they can play an important part in getting more women into tech and grow the future talent pool.
It’s easy to understand why we are so discouraged by ongoing headlines and studies, which suggest - despite the growing amount of publicity and resources aimed at increasing female employees - growth in closing the gender gap has not accelerated more quickly.
While we may not be on a par with the number of men in tech, there is fantastic work and conscientious efforts being made to create a more level playing field across the UK.
These actions will not only increase awareness but encourage people of both genders to act, whether that’s
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