For too long have the corridors of tech power been locked off to women, and in 2022, the winds of workforce change are blowing.
The tech industry is going through what can only be described as a reckoning. The global tech sector is waking up to the fact that representation matters, talent must be allowed to flourish. And that without the active participation of everyone in this future-critical sector, tech will become stymied, linear, creatively inhibited, and financially unrealised.
For every success story of female founders selling their stake for billions, there are more than enough examples of women up and down the country, from school age to retirement, seeing the doors of opportunity close in their faces. There are now-famous examples of some of the world’s most established tech industry leaders being forced to resign for allowing unbridled sexism to flourish under their watch.
The story of women in tech is one of battling against cultural barriers, biases, expectations, legacy management and, sadly, a very real and tangible fear. The real-life statistics behind female representation in tech, as we show below, do not make for happy reading.
But light has to be cast on the worst excess of sex and gender-based biases to find the most impactful and direct solutions.
To create a more dynamic, more representative, more inclusive technical future, it starts with people – the workers, the ideas-people, the creators, the funders, the engineers, the influencers and the platform operators – these very human decision makers across governments, private enterprise and especially in schools.
Those very same people will right this lop-sided ship and show the world that tech is, indeed, for everyone.
The contemporary tech workforce requires rebalancing
- “19% of tech workers are women”
Despite the fact that 49% of the working population in the UK are women, and despite the now-ubiquitous use of tech, digital platforms, and the app economy, tech has found itself critically underrepresented in a key demographic
Gatekeeping and the current state of women in senior tech management
A major equity pain point within tech is a representation at senior, c-suite and management levels – there simply aren’t enough women at the top level in tech, and much of this is because of legacy gatekeeping biases within the sector.
- “The proportion of men and women being appointed directors of tech companies in the UK has remained almost exactly the same since 2000”.
- “Women in leadership positions… in the UK…occupy 26% of board positions in tech companies…(and) 20% in the US”.
- “Only 3% of Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) or Technical Director roles are held by women”.
As the famous quote from Children’s Defence Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman goes “You can’t be what you can’t see”. The effectiveness of representation at senior level for inclusivity and visibility cannot be overstated. Yet little has changed in 20 years.
There are, however, some outliers doing the good work of better reflecting women at senior level in tech:
- The World Economic Forum has made pains to highlight female tech founders in their series 8 female CEOs on bridging the gender gap in tech.
- A quarter of Apple’s senior leadership are women, which is a significant increase from the industry average.
- At the end of 2021, Anitb.com released their 2021 Top Companies for Women Technologists, which also discussed recruitment, development and retention trends in women in tech.
- Deloitte Insights released a report on how female representation is increasing in some sectors and organisations, showing double-digit increases in female tech workforce participation.
The Gender Pay Gap in Tech
The GPG should be a clarion call for companies to rectify an obvious, egregious financial bias in favour of men.
Despite the fact tech is slightly (only slightly) better at paying women as much as men for the same job when compared to other sectors, tech still has a lot of work to do:
- “Across the sector, men’s median hourly pay was 16% higher than that of women. This puts (the) tech industry above the national average of 11.6%”
- “Women also received 12.9% less in bonuses compared to their male co-workers”.
- Equity also seems to only work one way – “women occupied 39.3% of the lowest-paid jobs in (the) tech industry”.
It starts at the STEM learning level
While the issues of poor female representation within tech cannot lie exclusively at the door of educators, STEM subject engagement, or the lack of it, has a material impact on the pathways to STEM careers for young women.
For years, tech has been referred to as a “boys” subject, despite often equal participation in STEM subjects at pre-secondary school age.
- “In several studies, when children were asked to draw a mathematician or scientist, girls were twice as likely to draw men as they were to draw women, while boys almost universally drew men, often in a lab coat”.
- By the time students reach university age, only “35% of STEM students in higher education in the UK are women“.
It’s time for change;
We have an opportunity to build a post-pandemic workforce that respects and represents everyone, where talent no matter of gender or sex can come to the fore. Anyone that loves science, maths or IT should have the opportunity to build a career they love.
For that to happen, the barriers to entry, fair pay and senior representation have to fall – we lend our voice to them, and hope to help that process along.