What does the future look like for women in tech?
Human Resources

What does the future look like for women in tech?

Today marks the 43rd International Women’s Day, a global celebration that recognizes the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and highlights the discrimination and inequalities they still have to navigate in everyday life.

2017 was a damning year for the technology industry, with report after report flooding out of Silicon Valley about the unfair work practices and sexual harassment that are driving women out of an industry they are already scandalously underemployed in.

However, it’s not just the illegal behavior that has got people talking. The publication of diversity and gender pay gap statistics by a significant number of companies has simply forced into the limelight what women around the world already knew to be true. The unconscious and conscious biases which exist throughout every industry and mean the cards are stacked against women from day one.

The Digital Revolution is not a new concept, there has been a significant global shift towards digital technology that can arguably be traced back to the 1950’s. However, the tech sector is facing a growing talent shortfall in every area from Artificial Intelligence to cyber security and software engineering. So, what is the reason behind 50,000 women turning their back on STEM careers each year? And how can the technology industry change to ensure it’s securing the diverse talent it needs for the future?

When speaking to women working in the technology industry about these issues, you often hear the same grievances being aired. The problems are not new and by now, companies are well aware of the actions they need to take to confront these challenges and improve the current state of affairs.

In honor of International Women’s Day, I reached out to a number of prominent figures working in the technology industry and asked four questions around the subject of Women in Tech to find out what we should be doing to press for progress

Below are 35 responses, separated by question. Some responses have been condensed for clarity.

 

What are the biggest roadblocks facing women entering the technology industry?

Many women are subject to active discrimination and victimization because of negative gender stereotypes in every industry, not just technology.

Rachel Hosking, Automation Consultant, University of Nottingham

 

Men.

Dmitry Bagrov, Managing Director, DataArt

 

Children are stereotyped from an early age, pushed towards certain subjects at school and certain careers whilst at University. This can then have a knock-on effect, creating a lack of confidence in women when applying for jobs in certain sectors.

Rav Bumbra, founder of Structur3dpeople

 

The biggest roadblock facing women entering the technology industry is the perception that there will be roadblocks. Yes, there will be challenges and difficulties over the course of our careers but as women, we should encourage each other to see them as opportunities.

Jennifer Nelson, managing director of R&D Database Servers and Tools, Rocket Software

 

There’s an inherent and often unconscious bias against women due to their lack of representation. Job adverts are often written using inappropriate and more traditionally masculine language, plus there is a lack of confidence among women when applying for technology roles.

Rob Johnson, Managing Director, Global Resourcing

 

There is a misguided perception of what a “female” job is compared to a “male” job, which can be off-putting to women wanting to enter the tech industry. In addition, there is not enough of an understanding of just how broad the spectrum of roles is.

Emma Robertson, CEO, Transform

 

The stereotypical image of technology being a male dominated industry full of technology ‘geeks’ means that many women probably rule themselves out from this field because they believe there to be no opportunities for them in a culture that doesn’t seem to welcome women. As a consequence, this can make technology seem like a less appealing career choice compared to other industries.

Ileana Stigliani, Assistant Professor, Design and Innovation, Imperial College Business School

 

Schools do not always seem to promote jobs in technology as the future of work for young women in a compelling and inspiring way. At IBM, we actively encourage and actively support young women wanting to enter the technology sector working with Primary Schools and introducing children to coding using Raspberry Pi computers and try to inspire young women into STEM.

Deborah Richards, UKI Diversity and Inclusion Leader, IBM

 

The biases young girls experience in the education system, and the stereotype that science, maths or IT are ‘male’ subjects. This has undoubtedly held back the industry over the years in terms of diversity.

Georgina Lord, Sales and Marketing Director, Intercity Technology

 

Why do you think the technology industry still struggles to represent women in leadership roles?

Too many tech board and senior-level appointments are still being made based on a limited network of contacts, stifling recruiters with highly restrictive talent pools from which to choose. To redress the balance and find the right people with the right skill sets, companies need to cast their nets much wider.

Susie Cummings, CEO, Nurole

 

There are probably many reasons, but not having been many women employed in the tech space so that the predominantly male workforce progressed through the various steps of the career ladder and bias certainly come to mind.

Alexandra Anders, Director of Talent, Cognifide

 

In the past, there was a strict portrayal that businesses were led by men – and that’s been hard to shake. Women have been working twice as hard to prove themselves as quality leaders and the tide is turning, albeit slowly.

Tracy Cray, Director of Card Scheme Compliance, Chargeback Company

 

We need to show women that there are a variety of career paths and leadership roles out there that are available to them. The IT industry is an incredibly exciting place to be, however it has struggled in the past to attract women at the same rate as men.

Marianne Calder, VP EMEA, Puppet

 

There are more men in leadership roles, increasing the likelihood of perpetuating the status quo. Changing the status quo requires tech companies to actively invest in women and practically place value on having women in leadership roles.

Onyeka Jones, Product Manager, Tripwire

 

As women are still more likely to have the main childcare responsibilities, career breaks for maternity leave and childcare can slow females’ progression up the career ladder. In contrast, male employees who generally do not take such breaks may progress more quickly and then join the already predominately male leadership teams, which creates a repeating cycle to females’ detriment.

Michael Hibberd, Senior Solicitor, Clarkslegal

 

Women need organizational support at all stages in their careers, but equally important is the need for women to actively support each other in their careers. They can help each other with career advice, information on job roles, shared experience of navigating organizations, peer feedback on suppliers etc. Women need to ask each other for help.

Aine Denn, Co-Founder, Altify

 

The way to make real change long term is not through external quotas or targets, we need to shift mindsets. Leaders should be educated to understand the commercial and cultural benefits of diversity and inclusion so that it becomes a non-negotiable for everyone… and [then] drive the agenda relentlessly, so that it becomes part of what they do, not another initiative. 

Caroline Moore, People Director, Sage

 

What can be done to improve workplace opportunities for women and ensure companies retain diverse employees?

Meaningful attempts to drive diversity need to go beyond a token gesture or superficial box–checking exercise. Stop offering women presentation slots centered around establishing a career in an industry dominated by men - let women talk about their technical work, instead of highlighting their careers as an anomaly.

Michelle Johnson Cobb, Chief Marketing Officer, Skybox Security

 

We need accessible role models who can show all the different roles that women in tech can have, who can share their struggles and successes and act as mentors to other women.

Haiyan Song, SVP Security Markets, Splunk

 

Create a culture that moves away from the tech long hours ethos

Sharon Baker, Co-Founder, Mighty Social

 

Introduce a real diversity policy and put it into practice. I’ve come across diversity leaders and women’s leadership networks before and they’ve truly given women much more opportunity to succeed. Once workplaces show they’re diverse, balance shifts dramatically.

Carolyn Sweeney, Director of Global Business Development, Chargeback Company

 

Companies need to look at their diversity and recruitment policies closely. We need to start offering equal maternity and paternity rights, introducing real flexible working structures, making sure company culture is for everyone and not just one type of person, and ensuring recruitment panels are diverse and blind recruitment is in place.

Chelsea Slater, Director of Social Enterprise, Liverpool Girl Geeks

 

Offering the opportunity to work from home, flexible working, and strong maternity and paternity leave policies would be a step in the right direction. What’s most important is to let women know they are welcome and have employers provide the tools necessary for a fulfilling career.

Gordon Kaye, Managing Director, Cathcart Associates

 

We need to see changes in the way people are interviewed and hired in the first place. People tend to employ people who are like them so it’s about breaking the mold. Tech innovations such as AI could help level out the playing field, in terms of women in tech and wider diversity.  AI can be used to minimize biases inherent in the recruitment process and remove common tendencies, like hiring those similar to you, first impressions or gender.

Helen Goldberg, Co-Founder and COO, LegalEdge

 

When it comes to recruitment, we need to be much more innovative in how we’re recruiting female talent. At McAfee, we run a Power Back program that targets females who have taken career breaks to raise a family but have incredible expertise and experience. We can’t and shouldn’t ignore this incredible talent so we look at providing training and education to bring these women back into the workforce.

Chatelle Lynch, Chief Human Resources Officer, McAfee

 

Your culture, including perks and benefits, also need to reflect the diversity of your workforce and you need to accommodate the variety of wants and needs of your employees. We have an annual training budget which has been used by employees for everything from studying English Language to typography. They can choose the style of training that they want to fit in with their lifestyle and learning, whether that’s a conference or online training which can be done remotely.

Amy Crimmens, Head of Community Engagement, Red Badger

 

What does the future look like for women in technology?

There will be a concerted effort to tackle conscious and unconscious bias, increased transparency and accountability leading to an enhanced meritocracy. This will encourage greater diversity and as we increase inclusion more women will be hired, promoted and retained.

Stephen Frost, Founder, Frost Included

 

This fight isn’t just about recognition, women are truly vital to the technological and economic progress in the technology sector. We need new thinking that only different backgrounds and experiences can offer. Yes, the future will see more balance of women in the boardroom, but, more importantly, we’ll see true innovations taking place.

Monica Eaton-Cardone, CIO and Co-Founder, Chargeback Company

 

There is a huge focus on women in tech, starting from coding clubs for children of all genders, to apprenticeships, boot camps and more rounded university courses that include things like user experience, accessibility and digital inclusion which will all gradually help to change the shape of new talent.

Hilary Stephenson, Founder and MD, Sigma

 

If the world continues to recognize that there needs to be more diversity in the workplace for future innovation, the future should burn bright! Implementing laws to bridge the gender pay gap should assist in that, but ultimately, addressing the issue and acting upon it like anything else should progress a positive future for women.

AJ Johnson, Principal Recruitment Consultant, Anderson Frank

 

it is often said that ‘what gets measured gets managed’, so all of the research into and monitoring of these issues is likely to be the precursor to a brighter outlook. Provided the technology industry can continue to spark more interest amongst girls in pursuing STEM subjects and careers at the formative stages of education, and in parallel provide more flexible working practices, the future is positive.

Anita Mishra, Partner, Clarkslegal

 

I think we’ll continue to see women smash the glass ceiling and open doors for lots of young and emerging talent. On a societal level, we are beginning to see mainstream appreciation of the value of encouraging young girls into STEM subjects and nourishing their curiosity about tech. We’re getting ever closer to the day when industries or jobs aren’t viewed as masculine or feminine which are encouraging signs that lead me to believe that the future is bright.

Jada Balster, Vice President, Marketing, Workfront

 

The future looks bright for women in technology. There are many opportunities for women looking for a career in IT and while an interest in STEM subjects, problem solving and making sense of complex data is a bonus, wider skills such as communication, planning, time management are also highly sought after. Don’t just wait for the perfect role to be advertised – find an area that’s of interest to you and work on building your expertise.

Ellie Bradley, COO, Nominet

 

It is great to see so many initiatives driven by tech companies which teach the basics of programming. I believe that encouraging girls to take an interest in technology begins at an early age. This, together with a gradual shift in our culture, the future for women in tech will be a bright one.

Jenny Pattinson, Security, Risk and Governance Manager, Hive

 

I think the future for women in technology is generally bright. However, this changing your recruitment policy does nothing to address workplace issues like sexual harassment, unequal compensation, and day-to-day cultural bias. I am thankful for all the brave, amazing people who are speaking out, and sometimes risking careers, to bring this issue to the forefront.

Karen Taggart, Customer Success Manager, CloudBees

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Charlotte Trueman

Charlotte is Staff Writer at IDG Connect

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