The evolution of women in tech

Donna Kelly, Senior Vice President at CGI UK looks at how women can navigate complex situations with their colleagues, and how the industry has evolved and how far it still has to go.


Women have long had successful careers in the technology sector, and as an industry, tech has come a long way to creating a better working environment that supports women from all backgrounds. Despite this, there’s still work that needs to be done to ensure that women can continue to thrive – balancing their lifestyle with career progression.

We often see women being celebrated externally by businesses, particularly around events such as International Women’s Day, however sensationalism often plays a role in enabling organisations to simply talk the talk, not walk the walk. To see more of the latter, we need to see action from businesses that challenge the status quo and show women that their work, contributions and value are seen and appreciated.

The first step for any business wanting to create a more welcoming environment for women is to pause and reflect. Taking the opportunity to look objectively at their organisation, how many women it employs, the recruitment process and the way that it supports diversity in the work force is key. It isn’t easy to take this self-critical approach, but it’s necessary in order to make change. It’s impossible to move forward otherwise.

Next comes planning and involvement. Establish a committee dedicated to diversity and inclusion to start welcoming women’s voices into the mix and hear about their personal experiences throughout their career and in their current role. This is a useful exercise to find out if people feel supported, where they might need more support, and how they would like to see the organisation operate moving forward. While tacking actionable steps may take time, it’s better to take a small step forward than make no move at all.

Having a diversity and inclusion committee is a great way of supporting people from underrepresented backgrounds, providing them with the space to explore challenges and offer unique insights into navigating and overcoming difficult situations in the workplace. Finding ways to empower employees and encourage them to use their voice to advocate for change, by creating an atmosphere and work environment that allows these discussions to happen, is crucial.

Additionally, it is important to have a range of networks through different D&I groups that are led by people with the appropriate life experiences to offer guidance to employees from underrepresented backgrounds. If any organisation wants to be more inclusive, then you have to give your employees the tools to make change happen and listen.

Across many industries, the pandemic has aided the levelling out of a gendered work life balance. Childcare is no longer exclusively just a female or male issue, as home schooling has required an ‘all hands on deck’ approach from families. From a gender perspective, this change in work/life balance has been positive across the technology space.

Previously, women may have resisted promotional opportunities thinking it meant longer days or more travelling, encroaching on family life. With everyone working from home there is no need to choose between being home for the family or a two-hour commute each day because working is more accessible. By offering flexible hybrid working environments, companies will find that they are able to attract a wider pool of talented candidates, particularly women, who may have otherwise felt excluded. Similarly, from an internal recruitment perspective, more women will be likely to put themselves forward for promotion.

From a junior and graduate level perspective on gender diversity, the tech industry has come a long way to enabling younger people to feel that they can enter the sector right out of university without fear. At CGI, there have been times when there has been a greater influx of female candidates than male candidates. The challenge the industry as a whole still faces is ensuring that junior hires are getting the appropriate level of experience while working from home. To do this, businesses must ensure that women are encouraged to network among their peers, and offer people the chance to continue to learn and develop at home through online courses.

Looking towards senior hiring, the pool of women is much smaller. The industry simply wasn’t where it is today 10 or 20 years ago, so there are a smaller number of female candidates applying for roles that require more than 10 years of experience. It’s a sign of times gone by, however businesses can look to counteract this by creating a robust pipeline of women climbing the ladder within their organisation or fast tracking more women to senior positions.

As we look to the future of the technology industry, there’s still a lot of work to do to create an environment that embraces the wide range of challenges that women face during their careers. So much great work has been done already, and in time, the entire industry is counting on more and more organisations to keep diversifying, keep listening and keep amplifying the voices of women.

Donna Kelly is CGI Vice President and Business Unit lead for ‘South & Midlands’ Business Unit in the UK, which includes CGI’s Metro markets across the region, HR Solutions & Payroll business and Energy & Petrochemicals business. Kelly has substantial experience in the information technology industry and previously worked as a registered nurse.