Are there enough women in tech roles today? This week, I get stuck into this hot potato to reveal how getting the balance right unleashes superheroes and creates business success.
‘Gender & tech’. Just seeing those two simple words together, you can feel the energy shift slightly. ‘Ooh what’s she going to say?’ ‘She wouldn’t go there would she?’
Yep, I’m going there, it’s happening! I am cracking open the ‘gender diversity in tech’ can of worms (not the optical storage version, either!). So, grab your troll-swatter and let’s find out why gender balance in tech matters.
Gender Seems to be the Hardest Word
Avoiding this important subject can seem like the unspoken rule of the tech industry. Sometimes it seems easier not to speak up and for good reason:
- It’s the 21st century! Surely this stuff should all be sorted and no longer an issue, right?
- Gender is a sensitive subject and we don’t want to patronise or alienate anyone.
- Women may not want to talk about it any more, because we want to be recognised for our individual talents alone!
All these questions and more crossed my mind, as I tried to decide if I should broach this hot potato. As a female tech leader, do I have a duty to speak out? Do I have to act as a role model? Am I bold enough, ready and willing to do so? Well, as you can guess from this blog, the ultimate answer was ‘Yes’. Here’s why.
We Need to Talk about Kevi…I mean Kelly
I’m proud to be a part of the vibrant, exciting tech industry. We’re connecting people globally and changing the world with our innovations! Yet, with a tech team that’s 83% male, Silicon Valley looks more like something straight out of Mad Men.
The figures from the UK are equally concerning, where the women in the digital workforce fell to 27% from 33% in 2002. That’s right, it’s getting worse! What’s more, only 7% of tech positions in Europe are filled by women. I’m sad that fewer and fewer women are creating the digital world of the future.
Taking a stand for something you believe in is hard. Yet, when I remembered the lonely struggles of my own early tech career, I realised I had to do something. This is exactly what 1990’s me would have wanted – a female role model, shouting about why tech is awesome and why we need more women leaders!
Actions speak louder than words
I am pleased to say at Growth Engineering, we are well on the way to getting the balance right – our awesome tech team is 42% female and growing.
One of our prodigiously talented web developers, Laura, said: “I was one of only two girls on my multimedia degree course. When I joined Growth Engineering, a few years ago, there weren’t as many women here. It’s a brilliant team to be part of and great that we now have more female developers.”
It’s fantastic to hear the team agree that gender balance in tech matters!
Unfortunately, there’s a long way to go to convince the wider tech industry. Well – I like a challenge!
Why Gender Balance Benefits Everyone
There are many commercial benefits to getting the gender balance right, that have nothing to do with riding our metaphoric high horses.
1.Performance and profit
More diversity = more profit. It’s true, companies with stronger gender diversity experience higher profits. In fact, gender-diverse businesses are 15% more likely to financially outperform the median.
Even with these cold hard facts, it’s easy to look at tech giants and think – if it’s not broken why fix it? No one can deny Silicon Valley’s success, but how long can this party continue? The skills gap that’s threatening the digital economy is only getting wider. So, we need to plan for long-term growth and performance. Could gender balance be the answer?
2. Filling the Skills Shortage
Mind the gap! Britain needs 1.2 million new digital workers by 2022. There’s just not enough graduates in the pipeline to fill this shortage. Our industry is currently missing out on top talent because we’re failing to encourage women to pursue tech careers. At first glance, women’s interest in digital technology seems to be declining. Over the last 30 years women doing computer science degrees has plummeted from 37% to 18%!
Before we spit our coffee out in shock and horror, the reality may not be as hopeless as it seems. Most coders, women included, are self-taught (64%) with another 43.9% developing their tech skills with on-the-job training. As you know, I am all for online learning! Tech companies need to attract and nurture these self-starters, as part of a successful talent management strategy.
3. Better consumer/customer understanding
Research featured in the Harvard Business Review found when at least one member of a team has traits in common with the end user, the entire team better understands the user base. One thing is undeniable – women consumers love digital! 86.4% of women are ‘recent internet users.’ By getting the gender balance right, tech teams will better reflect their consumer base.
Yet women’s interest in digital products and internet use is not reflected in their career choices. One suggested reason for women’s declining interest in tech, is a lack of role models. But is this true?
The Role of Role Models
Did you know, without diverse leadership, women are 20% less likely to have their ideas endorsed? McKinsey research shows that by first embedding gender diversity at senior levels, it becomes easier to create gender diversity at all levels. Lastly, It’s what many women want, with 47% saying having more female tech role models would help women become more successful in the industry.
Using Learning Technology to Unleash Superheroes
Man, woman? Trekkie or Ringer? Introvert, extrovert? Cat or dog lover? Our differences can divide or unite us. Learning technologies can be harnessed to ensure you unite your workforce, encourage diverse role models, upskill staff and create lasting organisational change. My upcoming book will help you unleash superheroes, whatever form they take!
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