Did you know that around 50% of all STEM graduates are women? You wouldn’t think this, would you, considering women make up less than 20% of the tech workforce.
The question is… what’s stopping women from putting their talents to good use?
Why is Tech Still a Male-Dominated Industry?
There are two very obvious possible answers to this question. Yet it’s easy to pick holes in both areas of reasoning, suggesting there’s something more going on.
One obvious answer would be that there are simply more men in the entire global workforce than women. And that’s true. Around 72% of men work, compared to just 47% of women. However, there are many fields that *are* female-dominated. 90% of registered nurses are women, for example. So that explanation doesn’t quite fit.
The second answer would be that women are less inclined to work in tech. There’s research to back this up, with surveys finding that only 3% of women list technology as their first choice profession. However, that same research shows that while 33% of men have had tech suggested as a career path, only 16% of women say the same.
So what’s holding them back? Maybe it has something to do with these 4 aspects:
1. Companies aren’t great at engaging with female talent
A few years ago, beauty brand Sephora hit the headlines when it came out and announced that 62% of its technical workforce were women. People praised this. Sephora got some great publicity. And on the surface, it seemed like such a positive move. But digging deeper, the whole thing was a little patronizing. Sephora said they achieved this because their ‘hiring managers are encouraged to take risks’. Telling women that they’re a risky hire isn’t a great way to engage with candidates!
2. Bias is still alive and well in recruitment
There’s a fantastic report called ‘The Behavioural Science of Recruitment and Selection’ by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. In it, two types of recruitment bias are noted: Affinity bias, which is the tendency to recruit people like yourself. And status quo bias, which is the tendency to recruit people like you already have. When tech is already male dominated, this means that hiring managers are more likely to recruit male candidates, regardless of female talent.
3. Tech leaders may not be particularly accommodating
Fathers can - and do - look after their children. However, we can’t overlook the fact that, on average, mothers are still considered to be the primary caregivers. During the pandemic especially, it was found that women were three times as likely as men to be responsible for childcare. And sadly, it appears that tech leaders aren’t always accommodating to the additional needs working mothers may have. Throughout COVID-19, 62% of women in tech said they didn’t have the support they needed.
4. Women can find it challenging to progress in tech careers
74% of women in tech say that they experience gender discrimination, particularly when it comes to career advancement and promotions. In fact, gender bias is cited as the top barrier preventing women from moving into technical leadership roles. It’s reported that around 50% of young women in tech will leave before the age of 35. And perhaps a significant driver of this is the desire to move into an industry where they can progress, develop their skills, and realize the power of their potential.
So… Why is there a tech talent gap?
It seems clear that the shortage of female talent in tech doesn’t have anything at all to do with a shortage of female talent. That talent is there. And it’s there in abundance. The problem, perhaps, stems more from organizations themselves.
It’s time for some businesses to rethink their priorities. To start exploring ways to engage better with talent - no matter where that talent comes from - and to diversify the workforce. Businesses also need to edge away from this outdated notion of equality and begin exploring the newer concept of equity. Today, treating every employee equally doesn’t work. Every worker has different needs.
And we’re not just talking about men and women here, we’re talking about everyone. For example, during the pandemic, research found that employees of color worried most about career progression. LGBTQ+ employees worried about an increase in workload. Parents worried about whether they’d have enough flexibility. Everyone is different. Businesses need to acknowledge that, and look into providing the support that women need to thrive and progress in a career in the tech industry.
Why Women in Tech Matters
You may be wondering why the fact that the lack of female talent in tech is so important. After all, there are many other male-dominated industries, such as construction and transport. So what is it about tech that’s so crucial? The answer lies in the fact that it’s difficult to pinpoint any other industry where there is such a critical need to gain input from both men and women. Have you ever had difficulty using voice recognition technology? That’s because the early tech - which was tested only with male voices - is much better at understanding deeper speech patterns.
Today’s tech is designed by men, for men. And to be honest, men are doing great things. So just imagine how much we could achieve with female input, too.
Todays’ Workers are Tomorrow’s Role Models
The truth is that women matter in every industry. Not just tech. There have been some wonderfully uplifting stories over the past few years of more and more children being able to ‘see’ themselves in Disney movies. As the company shifted from using exclusively white, traditionally beautiful princesses into giving starring roles to ambitious Polynesian women, strong Latinas, and so on, children are growing up with more access than ever before to positive TV role models that relate to them.
It’s very much the same when it comes to women in the workforce. Women - and young women especially - need to see themselves represented. In particular, they need to see themselves represented in areas that are male-dominated, such as tech. They need to see what women are capable of, and that success is possible.
So… could you inspire the next generation of women in tech?