There are some amazing women working in the world of tech, but they unfortunately still remain a minority.
Currently, women account for just 16.8% of workers in the sector. A report from the Inclusive Tech Alliance (ITA) discovered that close to one million women must be recruited to work within the UK tech sector in order to reach gender parity. The government also estimates that around 1.2m new technical and digitally-skilled workers will need to be hired by 2022 to support growth in the sector.
The take up of IT business analysts, architects and system designers roles by women currently stands at 14.1%, and programmers and software developers at just 12.5% (ONS). Just one in ten IT leaders are women, and research indicates that the UK economy would benefit from an extra £2.6 billion each year if we increase the number of women working in tech to fill the prevalent IT skills shortage.
We spoke to experienced IT Director, Peter, to find out what skills helped him climb the IT career ladder:
the gender pay gap for women in tech.
Perhaps one of the world’s most well-known historic tech figures, Ada Lovelace is remembered because she is considered one of the first women of IT. Born in 1815, Ada became one of the world’s first ever computer programmers when she wrote an algorithm intended to be carried out by a machine. She paved the way for the millions of women around the world working in tech, but over 200 years after her birth she would no doubt be disappointed with the looming skills gap in the industry.
According to womenintech.co.uk, around 78% of large organisations admitted to having a gender pay gap in tech, with males earning more than females. The report which surveyed over 1,000 women working in the tech sector also revealed 14% of businesses have a median pay gap for women and 8% have no pay gap at all. Findings also suggest that women earn up to 28% less than their male colleagues in the same tech roles.
There are factors that could affect the gender pay gap in tech, such as working in different hierarchy positions, different skills and experience.
Other reasons preventing women from entering the technology industry include fewer opportunities for promotion, unconscious biases in recruitment processes, male domination and jobs adverts being targeted towards men. Another one of the main reasons highlighted by extensive research into the gender gap is the lack of girls taking Stem – science, technology, engineering and maths – subjects to an advanced level, weakening the pipeline of young women into tech-related industries.
where does the issue STEM from?
According to PWC, females are less likely to study STEM subjects at school. This also continues through to university and into their careers. The PWC report revealed that 64% of women study a STEM subject at school or pre university. This figure doesn’t seem low at first glance, which is compared to 83% of men. Moving onto university, this is where we see a larger decline - 30% of females are in STEM subjects, compared to 52% of men. The numbers plummet even further when looking at tech as a career choice - just 3% of females are entering tech, compared to 15% of males.
According to the National Audit Office, since the early 2000s the government expressed growing concern about how to achieve high productivity and economic growth in an era of fast-paced technological change, leading to the theory that one of the UK's key economic problems is down to a shortage of STEM skills.
The importance of attracting more people into STEM and widening the appeal has been reinforced by the fact that the UK STEM skills shortage costs the sector an incredible £1.5 billion a year in recruitment, temp staffing, salaries and additional training courses, illustrating a huge gap to fill.
In higher education, female students are looking for open learning environments, and colleges/universities can have a profound impact, with initiatives aimed at engaging and retaining more women in computer science programmes. While companies themselves need to do their part in supporting young professionals at the start of their careers with work experience schemes, internships, and mentorship.
The industry also needs to broaden the picture of what a tech career looks like in the minds of students and young professionals. There are diverse career paths and plenty of opportunities in roles beyond the “coder” stereotype that are currently in high demand by start-ups and established tech businesses. The stories of underrepresented tech jobs are captured in the recent portrait project Techies out of Silicon Valley, which aims to inspire positive change through storytelling.
It’s not just a matter of gender inequality, attracting women into the technology sector matters for the economy. Gender-diverse companies perform 14% better when compared to non-diverse companies, and ethnically diverse companies perform 35% better, highlighting a call for change. In numerous studies, research has shown that employees in pro-diversity regions, like the U.S. and Western Europe, prefer diverse work environments. In a survey of 1,000 respondents by Glassdoor found that 67% of job seekers overall look at workforce diversity when evaluating an offer.
achieving gender equality.
The technology sector is a long way from achieving gender equality, and there’s also an argument that the government could be doing more to promote diversity in the technology industry. It is also crucial that the tech industry has the support of government and policy-makers at a national and global level, and that efforts are made to collaborate in supporting and encouraging more women into tech and AI roles and careers.
However, tackling stereotypes is not only a cultural issue, it starts at home and in early education. Females aren’t considering technology careers as they aren’t given enough information on what working in the sector involves at an early age, and because careers in tech are less openly discussed or promoted to a female audience, with stereotypes being responsible for the bias.
It would be a waste of potential and a loss for the tech industry if existing stereotypes would keep much-needed talent out of a growing industry. The sector needs to grow on inclusivity and diversity. The more diverse our tech companies, the broader their perspectives, the better their insights, which results in better products and services for us all and in thriving businesses.