Women in tech – what should I know?
As PwC revealed in their 2017 report, ‘Women in Tech; Time to close the gender gap‘, only 23% of people working in STEM roles in the UK were female, and a measly 5% of leadership positions in the technology industry were occupied by women. Unfortunately, three years on and despite a surge in programmes and campaigns advocating women in tech, the stats are yet to see a significant improvement. Progress is slow. The reality is women, in particular women of colour, are still shockingly underrepresented in what remains a widely male-dominated industry.
But if you work in technology or its supporting industries, this news won’t come as a surprise. So, why should you care? Why is championing women in the technology industry so important to the future success of the sector? And more importantly, how can you get involved?
What is the women in tech movement?
The women in tech movement is a global campaign comprised of an ecosystem of networks, all striving to champion gender equality and help women embrace technology.
Women working in the tech industry is not a new phenomenon. History, whilst poorly documented, it is littered with examples of remarkable female tech pioneers. Amongst them, London-born Ava Lovelace, widely recognised as the world’s first computer programmer, Mary Keller, the first woman to receive a PhD in computer science and the many thousands of women behind the Bletchley Park code-breaking mission during WW2 – to name but a few. Fast forward to 2020, and the likes of Cindy Rose (President of Microsoft, Western Europe) and Tabitha Goldstaub (Co-Founder of CogX and Chair of UK government’s AI Council) are making huge waves in the technology industry, demonstrating the true strength of female leadership.
But, we need more women. To encourage more girls to choose a career in technology and support those already in it, we all must have a clear understanding of why it’s important and what we can do collectively.
So, why should I care?
Here are a few compelling reasons why addressing gender equality is so important:
- Gender-diverse teams drive more economic growth and produce better profit. There are numerous studies that show this to be true. More revenue across the sector means more cash for innovation, research and development.
- We must prevent future bias in technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) – Tabitha Goldstaub highlights in her debut book, ‘How to talk to Robots‘ – “AI…adopts the truths of its creators”. She goes on to warn that without the oversight of more female voices in the tech industry, “misogyny and unconscious bias is codified into the next wave of technology, we are all exposed to a less fair, less equal future”.
- A diverse team is a more creative team. Women enhance your team’s skills base, typically scoring highly in areas such as problem solving and emotional intelligence. Men and women also tend to think differently, meaning teams can prepare better for alternative viewpoints and anticipate potential pitfalls more easily.
- To address the digital skills gap. The UK tech industry is a fast-growing economy, one of the few industries not adversely affected by the arrival of Covid-19. Yet, billions of pounds worth of potential GDP are being lost every year due to a lack of digital skills and there are a growing number of tech vacancies. Encouraging more women into tech roles and providing them with the training to enter the industry will future-proof both young women’s careers and the economy.
- We all use technology – If we all use technology, surely we all must have a say on how it’s created?
Okay, so what can I do to help?
Luckily, there is a wealth of online resources making it easy for companies and individuals to start supporting women in tech today.
Here’s our list of top tips to becoming an advocate for women in tech:
Know your stuff
Stay informed by listening to popular podcasts or reading more articles and blogs that support women in tech. Many publications like Wired and Entrepreneur have great sections on this. Need a good place to start? Check out this article by Engine B Co-Founder, Donne Burrows, in WeAreTechWomen.
Learn more about making gender diversity a priority in your workplace
You can’t move forward if you don’t know what to work on. WomenInTech has created some great resources to help employers in hiring more women, with advice from the application process through to creating your own company networks.
Be a role model
One of the main reasons women aren’t choosing careers in the tech industry is due to a lack of role models. We cannot underestimate the influence of seeing inspirational female figures who are making waves in the industry. They say “we rise by lifting others”, so if it’s part of a mentorship programme, or simply a regular check-in with a team member, get involved and help inspire the next generation.
Watch a webinar
There are tons of women in tech-related events online right now and they provide a great opportunity to get involved immediately.