By Nicole Morley
The tech industry has a diversity problem. Despite being built on innovation, creativity and forward thinking, the workforce is still predominantly male and white. We’ve seen a few steps in the right direction, with giants such as Alibaba, IBM and Uber pledging to boost the female representation on their boards to 30% by 2022. Progress is being made, but slowly and in small increments.
We launched Advento Star Women in order to attract, support and promote women in the tech industry. It is our goal to combat the lack of representation and to help our clients increase, maintain and cultivate their female talent. In order to do this, we needed to better understand the perspectives of women in tech.
We recently conducted a survey, where we asked real women to share their views about working in the industry. The results shed some valuable insight into the experiences of women in tech.
Tech Isn’t Just for Millennials
Tech is generally viewed as an up-and-coming, trendy industry that is dominated by young bright minds. The industry has boomed in the past decade, but it has been around much longer. While it’s true that young people make up a large portion of the workforce, one third of women in the tech industry are between the ages of 35 and 44. A further one in three have been in the industry for over 16 years. Women have long been a force in the field, and will continue to be.
A STEM Degree Isn’t the Only Way to Get a Foot in the Door
Of the women surveyed, only 55% studied a STEM subject at A level, with even less studying STEM at the higher education level. Instead, the participants came from a variety of academic backgrounds. This is really positive news, and allows the industry to remain innovative. With the rate of change in technology, the key attribute of successful individuals in tech is a love of learning that continues over time. Women in tech should be trained quickly and continuously to meet the demands of skill shortages and improve the gender balance. Perhaps traditional career pathways need revision to be more of a matrix, with clear identification of what support and training are required to move into desired positions.
Opportunity Is Not Equal
With the continuous innovation and massive growth of the industry over the past several years, tech boasts a high level of opportunity but lacks skilled workers to fill all of the available roles. As a result, the tech workforce is known for being well-paid. Unfortunately, women in the industry do not experience the same levels of opportunity or receive the same compensation as their male colleagues.
When asked to name the top factors they feel are discouraging other women from joining the industry or discouraging them to remain, survey respondents cited gender bias, pay inequality, and unequal opportunities. Half of the survey respondents disagree that women are offered the same opportunities as men, and 55% say that it is harder for women to enter the industry. As a result, it is not uncommon for a woman in tech to be the only female in the room. 68% of survey respondents expressed concern about the low number of women in the industry. Female professionals feel that they are underrepresented, underpaid, and often overlooked despite having the same skills as their male counterparts.
The UK government is taking steps to remedy this by requiring all organisations of 250 employees or more to publish their gender pay gap figures. Transparency will highlight the work companies have yet to do in order to improve gender balance in their tech divisions, and hopefully lead to meaningful change.
Change Needs to Happen at Every Level
Government initiatives such as transparent pay gap figures are a step in the right direction, and many women in tech feel that lawmakers play a vital role in implementing change. 80% of survey respondents believe that government intervention is helpful in improving gender equality. Policy changes may provide a crucial push for companies to change their practices.
While government intervention may catalyse improvements, change needs to happen across all levels of the industry. The survey offered respondents the chance to offer their recommendations for narrowing the tech gender gap. Responses ranged from making changes at the organisational level to promoting STEM education to young girls in schools. Encouraging the next generation and supporting current employees will help shape a more equal and diverse tech workforce in the future.
This survey provided great insights into the experiences of women in tech, but does not tell the whole story. It is essential for companies and professionals to support their female staff and colleagues, and listen to their perspectives. With effort from all parties, we can expect to see positive change in gender equality.
Interested in hearing more about the survey findings and engaging in conversation with others in the field? Join us on Wednesday 12 June at Core Bar London for our “Women Working in Tech Insights” event as part of London Tech Week.
View the full event details here. To learn more about Advento Star Women, please visit our website.