Making 2022 a good year for female talent

GUEST BLOG: In this contributed blog post, Claudia Harris, CEO of Makers, talks about ways that businesses can promote diversity to make 2022 a good year for female talent.

Software bootcamp Makers has published a whitepaper on the UK gender gap in tech which maps out the potential ways that individuals, organisations, and all members of the tech community can work towards closing the gender gap in tech as we enter 2022.

As the new year begins, Makers is looking forward to continuing its vital work in closing the gender gap across the tech industry.

While getting more women into science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) roles has been a goal for many organisations and governments, challenges remain. Around 48% of women employed in the sector report discrimination in the recruitment and hiring process, and there has been a mere 2% increase in women software engineer hires over the last 20 years.  Retaining talent is also a big problem. Half of the women in the industry drop out of tech by mid-career and women make up less than a quarter of tech’s senior leadership roles.

Fixing this issue has never been more relevant, as we face a greater labour shortage in the technology industry as companies start ramping up their post-pandemic recruitment efforts.

Makers’ recent white paper “Re-coding Tech: Outlining Solutions for Gender Equality in the Tech Industry ” looks at the challenges and why they persist, but it also outlines some practical recommendations to overcome them. The report uses data-driven insights and existing research to provide an overview across the tech sector as well community insights and learnings from our annual Women in Software campaign, an initiative that showcases women who are making a positive difference in the tech sector.

The Makers Re-coding Tech report breaks down the origins of the gender gap in the sector. It starts with the challenge of making the tech industry an attractive career path for women, which can begin as early as secondary school education. Too few girls are encouraged to take STEM subjects to an advanced level.

Then, in the hiring process, gender biases (both conscious and subconscious) mean that fewer women are encouraged to apply for tech roles. In some cases, even secret AI recruiting tools have demonstrated bias against women.

Many women in tech also feel they lack support from their managers when it comes to job security and work/life balance. Others also feel that their company doesn’t actively enforce inclusive policies that enable women to better juggle their work and home duties.

But these challenges are not insurmountable. Our report outlines solutions for a more inclusive future and expands on how companies can better support women in tech.

Starting from the beginning

Figures from the WISE campaign suggest that only 9% of female graduates studied a core STEM subject in 2018. A recent PwC study also indicates only 3% of women say a career in technology is their first choice career.

Awareness and investment in the ‘early’ part of the talent pipeline should be a priority to encourage women to consider tech as a viable career option. More should be done to look at encouraging STEM at the secondary school level, either through including coding courses within the core curriculum or extensive career advice which explores the diversity of roles within the tech industry. This can also be achieved through academic partnerships and more interaction from tech firms in the education sector.

Investing in mentorship

Mentoring programmes combined with exposure to senior figures is an effective tool in highlighting the variety of success stories of women in technology.

Schemes such as Coding Black Females and InnovateHer provide crucial resources to ensure girls from diverse backgrounds explore opportunities in tech.

Mentoring programmes also work for women who are already in the technology industry. A recent study by Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations has shown such programmes have the potential to lead to an 15% to 38% increase in promotion and retention rates for under-represented groups and women when comparing with experiences of non-mentored employees.

Focusing on retention

Retention of talent is a crucial building block in ensuring that women are there to shape the technology of tomorrow and to act as role models for those who are at the start of their careers.

Cultural shifts due to pandemic means employers should take action to implement alternative workstyles which incorporate flexible working, investment in training and safe opportunities for feedback. This increase in autonomy is not only beneficial for women in the workplace but also provides a positive cultural shift for the wellbeing of the organisation as a whole.

The Makers report has more details on how to learn more about closing the gender gap within your IT organisation and how to attract, nurture and retain female talent.

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