International Women’s Day 2018: What steps can we take for women in tech?

Each year March 8 represents International Women’s Day, a day dedicated both to celebrating women and pushing for greater gender equality.

For 2018 the theme of International Women’s Day is #PressForProgress, a theme that calls for everyone to keep pushing for parity between men and women, which it is estimated will not be gained in any of our lifetimes.

Days like this are important for shining a light on the issues currently faced by half of the population, and in the Year of the Woman it’s becoming impossible to ignore the fact that women are still not equal to men in many parts of the world.

For the technology sector, which has always been male dominated, some firms are doing what they can to push for greater diversity.

CA Technologies has rolled out unconscious bias training for all of its managers, organisations including the UK government are signing the Tech Talent Charter to establish guidelines around diverse tech hiring, and Trainline has partnered with Code First:Girls to teach 20,000 women to code for free by 2020 – to name just a few of the initiatives trying to up the number of women in tech.

But the progress, not just for equality more generally but for equality in the technology industry, has been painfully slow.

Women in UK tech earn less than their male counterparts, regardless of their role or experience.

Teachers have admitted they gender stereotype science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) based subjects, perceiving them as for male pupils.

Female students are less likely to consider technology roles than male students.

What can we do about this?

Rebecca Taylor, head of UKI communications for CA Technologies says it’s down to making sure we have support from men.

She states: “There are a lot of incredible women working hard for gender parity, but the reality is that there are more men called David running FTSE 100 companies than there are women. Men in leadership roles need to recognize the value a diverse workforce will bring to their business, and make themselves accountable to delivering change.”

Since men are those who hold positions at the top of tech organisations, they hold much of the power, so without them on side not a lot can really change.

But men only have more to gain from this equalitarian attitude towards the workplace, as Taylor points out: “Equality is not pie – there’s not less for men because there’s more for women. Men face different challenges to women, but they are no less real.”

By increasing equality in a work environment it gives men an opportunity to embrace the benefits of that such as more paternity leave, flexible working, and ultimately a more inclusive culture to work in where people are accepted as they are.

For many a focus on hiring processes is also a step in the right direction for getting more women into tech.

Russ Shaw, “Founders should consider blind hiring, where education and names are omitted from candidates’ CVs, and look beyond their immediate network to source candidates.”

Companies who do have more diversity perform better, but in trying to hire more diversely companies often forget the importance of internal culture in retaining people.

Shaw says: “We must also do a better job in developing the right company culture from the very start. Our startups and scaleups are the corporations of tomorrow, and the sooner that diversity becomes a company value, the easier it is for a startup to benefit from this as it scales.”

Easier access to industry role models is also something technology firms could do more of.

Young girls would like to gain more encouragement from women already in the technology industry – as diversity advocate and president of TechUK Jacqueline De Rojas has repeated many many times: “You can’t be what you can’t see.”

Linda Aiello, senior vice president of international employee success at Salesforce, suggests: “I believe we can all step up and play our part in helping increase the number of women in the tech industry through simple actions, like attending our former school’s career days, or talking to the young women in our lives about what a career in tech can offer.”

These three focuses, men’s involvement, role models and hiring/retaining practices, are not the be all and end all for encouraging more diversity in the technology industry, but they are a start.

There is no silver bullet, and progress can only be made through change and continuous hard work, making this year’s theme of #PressForProgress more adept than ever.

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