Tech companies are not doing a great job of recruiting, hiring or promoting women. By ‘not doing a great a job,’ I mean the UK is rapidly falling behind world leaders in the industry and as a nation we have a great deal of work to do to towards closing the tech gender gap. Even though it is discussed frequently, we don’t seem to be seeing any major improvements, any time soon.
Technology is one of the fastest-growing sectors in both the UK and the US economy. While corporate leaders claim that throughout the global recession and recovery, the shortage of employees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), has never disappeared.
The real truth is, the tech gender gap is growing.
It is predicted that by 2020 there will be 1.4 million tech jobs waiting for STEM graduates in the US, but The National Assessment of Educational Progress forecasts a shortfall of nearly 1 million vacancies. This is based on the low number of students taking STEM subjects. In the UK we are experiencing similar problems. But yet are we encouraging our women to bring their talent to the table?
The BBC reported that only 17% of the UK’s tech jobs are held by women. In STEM subjects generally women make up just 13% of the workforce. In engineering women take up just 8% of the jobs. Furthermore, OECD’s Education at a Glance research shows a mere 23% of university qualifications in engineering, manufacturing and construction were awarded to women between 2000 and 2011. Sitting the UK at 29th in Europe, this gap isn’t just bad for women, it’s bad for the economy – the UK is being left behind.
Facebook and Pinterest were among many tech companies that released diversity numbers over the summer and some of the numbers are quite disheartening. When you focus on the companies’ technical employees: Only 15% of the tech team at Facebook and 21% of the tech team at Pinterest are women. These are some of the biggest tech companies in the world, pioneers of innovation, pushing boundaries and shaping the future, but they haven’t innovated their attitudes involving women. Why aren’t women entering the tech workplace?
But when you think about it is it surprising that women feel they just don’t belong in the tech industry when they are so underrepresented. The shortfall is hardly surprising when there is relatively few female role models as a consequence of a small female workforce. Employers who do not actively target female candidates are likely to receive significantly fewer job applications from female candidates. Plus, STEM subjects are represented so wrongfully, the stereotype needs to change!
Furthermore, according to research from The Targeted Initiative on Science and Mathematics Education:
Girls often report lower self-confidence in their abilities in science, technology, engineering and maths despite the fact there are no differences in abilities.
Surely it is in the companies interest to employ a diverse workforce, studies have shown that a diverse workforce is much more profitable, creative, energetic and productive. In order to generate innovation it is paramount to have different view points.
To understand what clients and customers want it should be aligned to the interests of both men and woman and that means it is important to have both men and women on the team. So why isn’t more being done about it?
However, the UK is now one of the first countries teaching its children to code. Teaching programming skills to the next generation is seen as a long-term solution to the “skills gap” between the number of technology jobs and the people qualified to fill them. Pupils aged five to seven will be expected to “understand what algorithms are” and to “create and debug simple programs”. By the age of 11, pupils will have to “design, use and evaluate computational abstractions that model the state and behaviour of real-world problems and physical systems”.
But, what I really want to see if the tech gender gap being tackled more fiercely.
It is important for women in tech to stand up and become role models in their industry.
We need to change the stereotype, they are no longer computer geeks, stuck in a room somewhere, never seeing the light of day, instead they build things for people, make an impact, generate innovation and change the world.
“When I was 15 and I was doing my studies if someone had said ‘Jackie you’re going to be one of the top women in Microsoft’, I would never have believed them; IT has enabled that”