We all know that tech is a heavily male-dominated environment, and that the numbers of women in senior roles is still shockingly low.
But what more can be done to get women into tech, and then help them to progress once they are working in the industry?
To recap the issue, here are a few stats:
- Only 17% of employees in the UK tech sector are women (Source)
- Only 8% of women say they have never experienced gender bias in the workplace (Source)
- In tech, women workers are paid 18 – 22% less than men (Source)
Stop gender stereotyping
The reason why women might not enter the tech industry at, say, 21 after finishing university, could have a lot to do with gender stereotyping occurring much earlier on.
Only one in six school leavers starting a computer sciences degree in 2016 was female (Source), showing that the issue is starting well before those students even make a decision about their degree subject. It happens before they’re choosing their GCSE options, and the issue is often down to stereotyping girls to study more ‘arts’ based subjects. In a survey, 57% of teachers admitted to making subconscious stereotypes about girls and boys in relation to subjects such as sciences, engineering and tech (Source). Worryingly, the same survey recorded that 54% of teachers said they had experienced girls dropping out of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) subjects due to pressure from parents.
Clearly, this has an impact as women progress through their career if they have experienced both teachers and parents, actively or subconsciously, discouraging them from choosing STEM subjects.
There are a number of initiatives being run by STEM groups across the country to raise the profile of these subjects with girls at an earlier age to ty and reduce the effect of gender stereotyping, with engineering companies regularly holding talks with their female engineers in schools and events to showcase the range of roles available in the STEM industries.
Encourage more female role models
48% of women said a barrier to progressing in their tech careers was down to a lack of female mentors. 42% said it was down to a lack of female role models (Source).
Subconsciously, we look to others for examples of what we aim to do ourselves. If someone has done it, then we think, ‘maybe I can do it too’. It’s no surprise that research has shown that if your father was in the military then you are 5 times more likely to join the military also (Source).
If we aren’t seeing women in positions of authority in the tech sector, then women at the beginning of their careers don’t have role models to follow.
Companies need to start looking at how they can build more mentorship programs, linking up senior women with junior counterparts, and making it worthwhile for both parties. This also links in to more companies selecting women for managerial positions so they can coach and develop their teams and be a role model to other aspiring managers.
Make it easier to return to work after maternity leave
Crazily, today, women are still sometimes asked about their plans for starting a family in career discussions. Are the fathers ever asked this?
For women who have had children and are the primary caregiver, returning to work requires a degree of flexibility on the part of the employer to enable a better work-life balance.
65% of women say their employers offer flexible work arrangements (Source), however it is reported that there is a ‘flexibility stigma’ where women feel punished or judged if they do take up offers of flexible work arrangements.
Perhaps if more men were utilising flexible working for their own family, it wouldn’t be a taboo issue for women alone?
One in three women find it difficult to return to work after maternity leave, despite women making up 46% of the UK labour force (Source). A UK survey shows that 88% of women returning to work want to work flexibly, and 79% went on to request flexible working. Unfortunately, 16% experienced no change to their working patterns, an issue that often forces women to look for other jobs. (Source).
Encouragingly, the recent focus on gender imbalance across all sectors is shining a light on the tech space and encouraging more organisations to think about how they can enable more women to join the industry, enable more women to progress and reach the most senior positions within companies, but also to reduce the pay gap so women are treated fairly.
There are a number of groups supporting women, such as Tech Returners – an organisation supporting people returning to tech after a break, such as maternity leave. techUK also has a program of events for women in tech, and more events and panels are trying to address the lack of diversity by inviting more women to speak.
We’re passionate about diversity, and helping companies to achieve more diverse workforces whilst supporting candidates from diverse backgrounds to find the jobs they love in the tech sector. Find out more about what we’re doing: https://yourprimerecruitment.com/diversity/