By Christie Day
As a professional woman who has worked in the technology sector for more than a decade, I am still astonished by the huge disparity between the number of male and female workers. Despite the efforts of some of the biggest global technology brands, just 17% of tech employees are women.
There are mountains of well-documented statistics that point to why attracting more females into the industry remains an uphill struggle. Worrying issues such as equal pay, was highlighted in a recent study by Mercer and showed around 78% of large organisations admitted to having a gender pay gap in tech. Even research into the small proportion of women who work in the tech sector has underlined critical areas for improvement, from a lack of career progression for females to the segregation of women into clerical, non-technical or specialist roles.
During my own ten year career working at the helm of Europe’s largest enterprise technology event, I had a fascinating insight into the world of tech. The gender gap was glaringly obvious. Thousands of visitors and exhibitors from renowned technology brands attended our annual events. It was clear that the vast majority of women who worked in the industry were in marketing-related roles rather than being at the cutting edge of technological innovation. We could all see the problem, but what and where is the solution?
We certainly won’t find it by dwelling on the gloomy picture painted by the statistics. Yes, there is a massive gap. But where there is an opening, there is also opportunity. Fortunately, that attitude of positivity seems to be shared among the great and the good in the sector. Many leading tech organisations have established various policies and practices to put up a strong fight for gender parity.
Microsoft paved the way by making diversity and inclusion its ‘core priorities’ for several years. Evidently, its latest diversity data shows a rise in the number of females employed in its global workforce, with more women working in both technical and leadership roles.
Companies such as Oracle have its own Women in Technology group to recognise the accomplishments of females throughout the industry and encourage them to mentor other women as they enter technology careers. Lenovo also champions gender diversity and ‘is committed to helping women thrive’ in the company. Figures from 2017 showed that roughly 34% of its workforce and 33% of its executive leadership team is female and the appointment of a Chief Diversity Officer aims to help them improve further.
Small increases equal progress. Female representation is (slowly) moving onwards and upwards. The opportunities are there and with an industry average salary around 40% higher than the national average, it begs the question why are tech companies finding it hard to fill vacancies? Addressing the reasons to the lack of women entering the tech sector is vital. Increasing the awareness of technical roles, highlighting achievements from female leaders and promoting flexibility for career-changers and Mums are just some of the steps being taken to speed up progress.
On a personal level, my own career has also progressed and it is perhaps no coincidence that I am now event director for Women in Business Expo - a brand new exhibition, aimed at all women looking for business and back to work opportunities. Launching in Farnborough next November, we will have a dedicated Women in Tech village and theatre, supported by industry leaders such as Lenovo, Microsoft and Oracle.
Women may still be a minority in technology, however if we all work together we can provide inspiration and opportunities in the sector. This year’s Forbes Power Women list features 20 stars from across the tech sector whose clout is growing every year. Let’s leave the other negative statistics in the past and focus on a future pool of female talent who can develop (not just market) the next generation of technological innovation.