The gender diversity divide - "I don't see what the problem is" say the men

This is a guest blog by Lee Chant, director at Hays IT.

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is ‘make it happen’, calling on effective action for advancing and recognising women worldwide. However, progress is challenged by disagreement on the extent of gender inequality in pay and career opportunities, particularly in the UK.

We recently surveyed almost 6,000 men and women globally to ask their views on gender in the workplace, and found that consistently across the world, men are far more likely than women to believe that pay equality exists for both genders in the workplace.

Globally, 18% of men compared to 45% of women think that equally capable male and female colleagues are not paid or rewarded in an equal manner. In the UK the gender divide is even wider, with 17% of men compared to 57% of women thinking that male and females are not paid or rewarded in an equal manner.

Given that the IT workforce is 80% male, these figures make for startling reading. To increase the female workforce above 20% will require a significant shift in perception of the majority.

The survey also found that almost one in two women (48%) compared to one in five men (21%) say that the same career opportunities are not open to equally capable colleagues of both genders. In the UK, the figure was again a slightly greater proportion than the global average with figures of 56% of women and 20% of men.

When it comes to taking action on this issue, almost one in two (44%) of the survey respondents say that more flexible working practices would have the biggest impact on improving gender diversity in their workplace. Our latest survey of IT employers found that while 73% of IT workers would like flexi-time, only 50% of employers allow this and just 36% encourage employees to take up these options, so IT employers have some way to go to provide these options.

Our respondents also called for changes to workplace culture through education across the business (44% globally, 49% for the UK), changes to organisational policy (32%), changes to government policy (27%) and better board backing for diversity issues (26%).

On average 32% of people said highlighting female role models would have the biggest impact on improving gender diversity. Initiatives such as CoderDojo, which we are proud to support at Hays, offer young women to chance to learn from successful mentors in IT, and show how easy it can be to inspire young people if they hear from the right role model.

Just nine per cent of respondents said implementing quotas would have a big impact, showing the vast majority believe that cultural change and practical measures, rather than formal quotas, are the answer.

Many organisations now have specific programmes in place to address diversity issues, but it is clear we still have lots of ground to make up to narrow the gender equality gap. If the IT industry is to ‘make it happen’, discussion and agreement on the extent of the issue is a necessary first step.