Tech. A world full of exciting and innovative technologies and a wealth of progression. But if you look closely you’ll see that at its core, the tech landscape is suffering from a big problem that affects nearly all companies within its industry.
Not enough women are working in tech and companies within this sector are struggling to retain the female employees they do have. This is resulting in gender disparity within workplaces and as a result, negatively impacting the way the general public are viewing the technology sector.
Having worked in a software development company myself, as an Internal Recruiter, from day one I immediately noticed the gender gap in the office. Only one female developer existed within an organisation of 70+ employees and an evident lack of female applicants wanting to join the company. Shocking right? Well funnily enough within IT companies this has actually become a frightening normality.
So what is the reason behind this shortage of women wanting to pursue a career in IT? Does it come down to a lack of interest or is there something more hidden beneath the surface?
The first reason for this goes all the way back to school. Generally, within schools, there is an existing theme that girls lean more towards the creative and artistic subjects and boys towards maths and science. This has led to a perception that STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) are masculine fields and as a result girls are not studying, or being encouraged to study, the subjects required for them to have a career in tech.
This shortage of females entering the industry then has a knock on effect in the workplace. Many women who do work within technology companies have reported that they feel isolated, outnumbered and intimidated in a working environment that is so heavily male-dominated. The Harvard Business Review reported that 50% of women working in STEM fields will leave due to hostile working environments, which really is concerning! The way men are treating women in IT is something that companies need to address if the industry is ever going to diversify.
So what is being done to combat this issue?
For girls, programs have now been created that help spark an interest in technology from a young age, such as Code.org, Girls Who Code, Girls Learning Code. What’s more, schools have begun introducing a handheld, programmable computer called a micro:bit that is helping to engage girls (and boys) in Year 7. Results so far have been incredibly encouraging, with 70% of girls who used a micro:bit reported to have said they will go on to study ICT/computer science.
What’s more, female leaders from across the technology sector are also starting to be heard and recognised. Great examples are leaders such as Anne Boding who founded Starling Bank and Sandra Lerner who founded Cisco. Both helping to magnify the incredible things women have done in technology and inspiring others to consider a similar career path.
All in all, it seems that the technology sector is recognising this gender issue and that alarm bells are ringing. But the question is, how quickly will change come? Well, how long is a piece of string? The hope is that because of the world we live in and the continued drive for equality, not just within tech, that changes will be made sooner rather than later and that the profound gender gap that exists will start to close. Unfortunately, the cold hard truth is that we need to be patient. This will take time and may ultimately be unsolvable.