The truth behind gender diversity in the technology industry

For many years there has been an outcry at the lack of female representation in the technology industry, but is this just perception or is it the reality?

Currently, it is reported that only 17% of the UK tech workforce is female. An even lower representation of women (11%) was recorded in our global Voice of the Workforce research of over 1,600 tech professionals. It’s no secret that a lack of women working in technology remains an issue.

However, further results from the research indicate that gender diversity is seen to be improving by technology professionals with over half (54%) believing the workforce is becoming more gender diverse. Interestingly, opinions on this matter are consistent across gender with 52% of females believing gender diversity is improving compared with 54% of males. Although these results are encouraging, there is a long way to go before there is an equal spread of women and men working in technology.

But why is a greater representation of women important to organisations? What are the barriers preventing women from embarking on a technology career? And what can women in tech expect for the future?

Why is gender diversity so important to the technology community?

Skills shortage
There is an acute skills shortage in many areas of technology from Software Engineers to Information Security Analysts. Our research showed that 57% of all tech professionals currently believe there is a skills shortage. It is partly due to the speed of technology change and the fact that its developing faster than education centres and companies are able to train and up-skill.  For example, the ever evolving nature of cyber-attacks has led to a need for cyber security professionals to protect companies systems and data; this is a need that previously didn’t exist.

It is suggested that there are currently 600,000 vacancies in the technology sector, forecast to rise to 1m by 2020. If we do not understand why, and try to rectify it, we are missing out on half the available talent pool. Additionally, if nothing is done to plug the skills gap, companies will suffer as they cannot deliver those products and services in increasing demand.

Benefits of diverse thinking

Gender diversity is such an important topic to the technology community, because not only will increasing the representation of women  combat the skills shortage, but will also lead to more competitive organisations as the culture is more open to different ideas and ways of thinking as Martha Lane Fox – Co-founder of explains:

“Products, services and ideas that are not founded on diverse thinking will never be as competitive as those created by gender-balanced teams. I may be biased but I believe the company I founded in 1998,, was more successful with Brent Hoberman and me as co-founders.”

What’s stopping women from working in technology? And what can we do to solve the problem?

Lack of role models

In the past, a lack of female role models has meant that technology has not been a fashionable subject. However, nowadays there are role models a plenty including entrepreneur and co-founder and co-CEO of Decoded - Kathryn Parsons, Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg and the first female engineer at Google and now president and CEO of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer who are proving how women can make a real difference to the tech industry and be hugely successful. By utilising these role models and telling their inspirational stories to young girls we can help to develop a pipeline of engaged females ready to embark on a career in tech.

Pay inequality

Although pay increases in our research were reported to be consistent across gender last year, according to a recent survey of developers by Stack Overflow (2016), male developers over the age of 30 earn on average $20,000 more than their female counterparts. This colossal gap may be a barrier for some women becoming software developers or continuing their careers within the tech industry.

However, some countries are making larger strides to tackle the issue of the gender pay gap. As of April 6th 2017 the UK government introduced the gender pay gap legislation, which means that organisations with 250 or more employees are required to publish annual figures showing how big the pay gap is between their male and female employees, including bonus payments. This transparency will provide true insight into the difference between the wages of men and women within a technology organisation. This is a great opportunity for organisations to show equal pay across gender which should make the tech industry more attractive for female workers.

Lack of flexibility and negative perceptions

In some disciplines within technology such as Software Development there is a perception of it being very geeky with many choosing to work on their own development projects in their free time. However, due to improvements in technology, flexible working practices are now more common in the workplace which means traditional problems such as childcare for mothers can be solved by more flexible working hours. In fact, providing better flexible working practices was seen as the most effective strategy to improve gender diversity according to 46% of tech professionals in our research. What’s more, as technology has become so important to the masses in their daily lives, those that possess skills in tech are seen as ‘cool’ and the word ‘geek’ now has positive connotations.

What can women in tech expect for the future?

On the surface it seems that gender diversity in the tech industry is improving. However, with women only making up 17% of the UK tech workforce, there are massive opportunities for greater inclusion of women in technology which can be supported by promoting more female role models to the younger generations, reducing the gender pay gap and providing more flexible working practices.

So what is the truth about gender diversity in the technology industry? We believe the real truth lies in the opinions of those working day-to-day in the industry. To find out more, take a look at our Voice of the Workforce online tool.

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