Women’s Equality Day 2021: Striving for change in the tech industryby
To mark Women's Equality Day 2021, we spoke to a number of women in the tech industry about why there remains a lack of gender representation in digital roles and how some organisations are tackling this issue.
Equality has come a long way since women fought for the right to vote. But whilst Women’s Equality Day was founded to commemorate a history of female suffrage, it also shines a light on persisting gender inequalities in the world today.
This is particularly important considering the events of the last year. According to McKinsey & Company, women make up 39% of global employment but account for 54% of overall job losses since the pandemic. The world should be a place of equal opportunity for all, and yet research consistently reveals just how far we have to go before this is possible.
Occasions such as Women’s Equality Day highlight that no matter how much progress it seems we have made, there is still room to strive for more meaningful change. On the day’s 50th anniversary, we spoke to a number of industry experts to learn how we can better strive for change, particularly for women in the tech industry.
If we keep supporting young women and encouraging strength in the face of adversity, we will continue to make progress.
A diversity problem in tech
Diversity within the workplace is one of the key areas in which change needs to happen. In the tech industry, for example, women still struggle with significant underrepresentation.
Michael Queenan, co-founder and CEO of Nephos Technologies, explains that this underrepresentation may be due to the deep-rooted reputations of the industry. “If you look broadly at data and analytics roles around the world, less than 25% of these are occupied by women. And when it comes to IT sales roles, the number drops dramatically. Why is this? Historically the industry has been dominated by white, young men, selling to older white men within the customer base. IT sales also has a ‘laddish’ reputation, which is unappealing to most women. This is changing – thank goodness – but that was the starting point, and once a reputation is established it can prove hard to change.”
“While there is still a long way to go, and I find it sad that we have to keep having these conversations, we’ve made progress because generations of women have been willing to ignore roadblocks and break down barriers wherever they exist,” adds Caroline Seymour, VP of Product Marketing at Zerto. "If we keep supporting young women and encouraging strength in the face of adversity, we will continue to make progress.”
A diverse workplace makes for a productive workplace
“There are numerous positions that need to be filled, so why aren’t they being filled with qualified women?” Seymour questions. “It’s been proven that diverse teams boost performance and bring fresh ideas to the table. If companies are striving for innovation and growth, then progressive hiring is the way to accomplish those goals.”
“Workplace diversity – be it in respect to gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation or other – can bring huge benefits to tech companies,” Sara Hamilton, Deputy Director of Product and Managed Services at Mango Solutions, agrees.
“When it comes to the number of women working in the field of data science, we’re beginning to see numbers rise. A recent study reported an increase in the number of women in data and analytics roles across the board relative to previous years. However, data science recorded the fewest women, making up just 20% of the workforce. Clearly this has to change.”
Liz Cook, Chief People Officer at Six Degrees, highlights that we are seeing small but positive changes that indicate we are headed in the right direction. “I was encouraged by a February report from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) which stated that 31% of UK tech jobs were held by women. This represents progress when it comes to gender equality in the workspace, but I believe that organisations still need to be proactive in ensuring women are represented in IT professional and leadership roles.”
While Women’s Equality Day is a chance to speak on the challenges females continue to face, it must be an ongoing conversation that happens daily.
Making change happen
Whilst talking about change and growth is important, it’s also critical to consider how we can enact this growth.
Some organisations already employ certain initiatives to support women, as explained by Cook: “At Six Degrees, we have established a Women in Tech (WIT) group led by one of our senior female leaders, to provide our women with a forum to connect, share experiences and support each other as we progress through our careers. We want to change the language and challenge the barriers faced by women in tech.”
It is also important to recognise the positive impact days such as this make, Queenan highlights: “Thanks to initiatives like International Women Day, Women in Engineering Day and this month’s Women’s Equality Day, positive change is taking effect. As an example there was a 6% increase in girls taking STEM subjects at A Level.”
This sentiment is echoed by Seymour. “While Women’s Equality Day is a chance to speak on the challenges females continue to face, it must be an ongoing conversation that happens daily. We want more women to pursue a career in the tech industry and having these conversations will help. So for those considering it, I say, go for it. Move forward confidently and pursue it wholeheartedly.”
“Helping employees feel included, no matter their background or gender, can break down barriers and reduce the fear of being rejected,”Hamilton concludes. “This is a great way to empower your employees and harness their ideas and thoughts. And in addition, almost as a side benefit, attract more great talent.”
Interested in this topic? Read 'Commitment to women in the workplace must be authentic.'
Becky is Editor of HRZone and Trainingzone, global online communities of people working in the HR and L&D industries. Becky works closely with leading HR and L&D practitioners and decision makers to ensure the publications offer a rich source of real-world insight and fresh advice to their audience.
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