Women in Dev – redressing the balance

GUEST BLOG: In this contributed blog post, Ana Cidre, head of International developer relations at Okta, talks about the steps businesses can take right now to start redressing the balance for female developers.

You don’t need me to tell you that IT is a predominantly male industry, and the developer role is no exception. Women make up just 28% of workers in IT, and women of colour just 2%, according to Gartner. Whilst there’s a lot of awareness about the imbalance that exists in the developer community, the words ‘gender diversity’ are often thrown around. However, the numbers don’t seem to correlate with the level of noise being made on how much more diversity is needed in the industry, and it’s something I was quick to learn first-hand.

Something needs to change, and it starts with you!

Journey into the developer world

My route to where I am today is a bit of an unusual one. I’m a self-taught developer and came from an art background before finding my way into the developer community almost a decade ago. I’m grateful to the community which gave me a huge amount of help, and I learned a lot from them. But I quickly discovered that there are many challenges in terms of diversity and the imbalance still at play.

As a woman in technology, it’s a far too common experience to look around and realise you’re the only one from an under-represented group in the room. Looking back at photos throughout my career, I’m often the only woman in the picture. I didn’t see many people like me in the industry, and especially as a mother, I never want my daughter to feel like her voice may be drowned out.

Moments like this have inspired my passion for driving diversity and inclusion within my industry. It’s how I became an advocate for gender equity in the developer community. I aim to be the change I would like to see and want to inspire under-represented groups to overcome barriers to thrive, in the same way the developer community pushed me. That’s why I founded Galstech, a group which aims to support women in technology in Galicia, where I live.

I want to encourage women to pursue a career in technology and feel that they can become developers, no matter what gender they are or what background they are from.

Lose the lineup if there is no range

Such dire statistics of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) emphasise the need for change, and there are simple steps that companies can take right now to start to readdress the imbalance.

For instance, saying no to conferences, workshops and meet-ups without diverse line-ups. Far too often there are panels, lists of attendees and company boards where the predominant representation is white and male. At Okta, we have a code of conduct that helps us show up in inclusive spaces. We are proud partners of Girls in Tech and WORK180, and have recently been named as one of the Best Places to Work for parents. We also have a number of platforms to educate, support, and ultimately improve diversity at Okta – this includes Women @ Okta, Pride @ Okta and People of Colour @ Okta. In these groups, we sponsor talks focused on professional development and career strategy, organise social events and philanthropy programs, and facilitate mentorship and networking across the business.

But, for there to be real progress, changes need to be made at every part of the business, and this starts at the recruitment stage. There is still a lack of awareness within some HR teams about issues relating to diversity, and it’s far too hard to find diverse talent. Hiring managers need to take a stand.

How I do this – I won’t accept offers unless we have been to the final stage with at least one person from a diverse background. You have to be uncompromising if you’re looking to build a culture that is reflective of your goals and values of an inclusive workforce.

Building a foundation of support

Programs like Women Who Code and Techbridge Girls exist to support women who are starting out in the tech business, but if we want to encourage more to join the workforce to balance out the scales, there is more work to be done. Organisations must build on this by offering internships or financial support to the women and new developers who are coming out of those programmes. Senior developers need to give up their time to support young women and developers from diverse backgrounds and give them the knowledge they need to succeed.

When my daughter grows up, I want her to know that there are no barriers, that she has the opportunity to grow in any industry that she chooses. While I am trying to make an impact now, I want her to always be supported, and to speak out without fear of not being heard in her workplace. Companies, therefore, must embed diversity in the way they work, root and branch, starting with recruitment and going through everything from events to how they communicate. Both the developer community and businesses have to take the small steps that will accumulate and propel us forward towards a more inclusive future in technology.


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