During London Technology week a panel on how to get more women into technology highlighted the importance of education, mentors and a change in industry attitude.
During London Technology week I had the privilege of chairing an Interop panel on ‘How to get more women into technology’ featuring the industry’s best and brightest on the issue of diversity in the technology space.
The discussion highlighted many important issues surrounding the lack of women moving into C-suite and engineering roles in the technology industry.
Participating in the discussion were Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates, Claire Cockerton, founder and brand ambassador for Innovate Finance, Jacqueline de Rojas, GM northern Europe at Citrix, Arabel Bailey, MD at Accenture, Sarah Luxford, co-founder of Croydon Tech City, and Wendi Li, product manager, viral growth at TransferWise.
It was the consensus of panellists that the changes made to the UK curriculum will be monumental in encouraging young women to pursue a career in tech, but a shift also needs to be driven from the top down – the whole pipeline needs to change.
People tend to feel safer and more familiar when surrounded by people like them – so without women in high up positions in companies, it will still be difficult for girls to imagine themselves in these roles, and see these positions as attainable.
Young girls need role models, and as pointed out by Li, everyone is aware of Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerburg, but where are the women?
It has been widely discussed that an increase of diversity in the industry will be a driver for development and innovation for businesses.
Taking up the position as the only man on the panel, Shaw showed disdain over the lack of women in the industry, calling it “shocking” and labelling it a “human issue” as opposed to purely a business issue.
But the main problem surrounding the lack of diversity is people’s attitudes – those already at the top are largely white middle class men, and they need to stop hiring people who look like themselves.
But despite campaigning for increased diversity in the industry, statistics are still showing very little change.
The advice given to women in the audience for advancing their own and other’s careers was finding or being a mentor.
The art of mentoring has been a hot topic surrounding the issue of women in tech over the last year, and all of the panellists agreed that women should be seeking others in the industry who can help and advise them in their career paths, whether in a startup or a more traditional technology company.
I bring up a quote quite often mentioned in the women in tech community – there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.
Although speaking out about these issues is one of the most important ways of initiating change, none of them want to be doing the same thing next year.
This should no longer be an issue.