Tech must improve diversity, or it'll end up like the City

The technology sector needs to improve its performance on diversity, or it will end up as starkly male dominated as the City, according to a senior female technologist.
London’s financial district is notoriously bereft of – and can be hostile towards – women and ethnic minorities, and Nora Nanayakkara says the digital sector could go the same way.
Nora is a non-executive director at Nominet and director of business development at domain name marketplace Sedo. She says the UK’s digital economy is set to grow exponentially in importance, but that the opportunities it holds don’t seem to trickle down to women.
“Digital is the big new thing. It presents huge opportunities for the UK and the economy, and unless women begin to be involved and get engaged, the digital space could look like the City in a few years’ time.
“We can see some of the indicators already. Technology is male dominated; to set up an online business you need programming skills, which females often lack; men are more likely to set up businesses anyway; and at the moment it’s hard to get financial backing so you are more likely to have to rely on your own capital. Finding this might be more of an issue for women who are caring for families than single men or women.”
She added that at board level, technology companies have similar working hours and culture to the long days and competitive attitudes associated with the City.
“There is a boys’ club mentality with IT,” she added. “At trade shows a lot of the after-show events are held in gentlemen’s clubs, or other less female-friendly environments. As a woman you can still network and achieve what you wanted to, but you feel a little bit out of place.”
Nora said the government needs to come up with a clear sense of direction and targets for getting more women into the industry. Efforts to improve diversity in the sector at the moment are too piecemeal. “If the country’s leaders are not clear on which direction to go in to include more women, it’s very difficult for women themselves to imagine having a place in that changing landscape.”
But she says positive discrimination is not the way forward. It undermines women’s real achievements by making people think they’re in the job to fill a quota, not because of their abilities. Instead, more role models like Martha Lane Fox are needed go to show women how it is possible to carve out a niche for themselves in the technology sector.