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Striving for gender equality in the technology industry

Vesela Nikolova, Bulgarian centre director at Amdaris, shares her thoughts on the need for greater diversity across the tech industry

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Despite the rise in female talent within the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) sector in recent years, there’s still a considerable way to go before we see equality in the tech industry. The current wave of female tech experts has hopes of reaching a more equal gender balance.

Although 74% of girls demonstrate an interest in STEM careers, this isn’t reflected in employment statistics. According to STEM Graduates, just 13% of the overall STEM workforce is made up of women, leading to a low number of female role models in the industry.

There are many barriers that need to be overcome, including challenging stereotypes and providing more opportunities for women. Unfortunately, tech giants are not leading by example when it comes to gender equality among their employees.

According to Tech Jury, over 75% of Facebook’s global tech-related jobs are occupied by men, with Google and Apple following suit, and only 23% of women making up these workforces.

Those women who are employed in the tech industry still face further challenges. WeAreTechWomen recently reported that 75% of women in tech feel like there is a lack of support and respect from their male colleagues. A concerning two-thirds of respondents also feel ignored during work meetings.

Challenges for women in tech appear to be persistent throughout their careers, with gender inequality also present in promotion rates. This gap increased further during the pandemic, with 34% of men working in tech receiving a promotion, compared to just 9% of women. So, what can we do to improve these issues?

The need for proper education

Women need to be well equipped for a career in tech with the right education and tools. This goes further than simply what is taught in classrooms.

London Tech Week’s recent study found that the majority of respondents think gender perception is the biggest barrier for women considering a career in tech, followed closely by stereotypes and a lack of support during school.

This highlights that the main issue isn’t a lack of female interest in STEM, but the off-putting stereotypes and barriers that push women onto other career paths. It’s vital that schools work to teach all genders how to abolish these outdated misconceptions, in order to build supportive educational environments.

Offering hands-on experience

Providing first-hand experience to young females keen to get into the tech industry is essential. These experiences can come in the form of internships and workshops in environments such as schools and universities.

Using female tech leaders to host these events will contribute enormously to changing gender perceptions within the industry, by providing positive role models and the opportunity for young women to be inspired. Role models are especially crucial at this stage, with the majority of of women saying that the absence of these in the industry is a huge obstacle to entering the sector.

The provision of software development internship programmes, offered by leading tech organisations, allows young women in the industry to gain hands-on experience of the latest innovations, whilst being mentored by industry experts. Participation in programmes such as these generates interest for women in pursuing a career within tech.

The value of mentors and a clear career pathway

Once they test the water in other career paths, many women are interested in making the switch to tech. However, factors such as lack of resources and a fear of the unknown may prevent them from making the leap. Tech organisations, therefore, should seek to offer mentorship schemes for women wishing to make the change, offering support and guidance wherever necessary.

Tech companies should feel the responsibility to ensure that the job transition process is as smooth as possible. By offering appropriate training and accessible female role models, organisations can help their new female employees feel welcome and comfortable. After employment, companies must seek to outline clearly the career progression opportunities for the individual’s role and continually support the employee with upskilling.

Educating the next generation

There is still a lot more to be done. Industry leaders and tech companies must offer a higher volume of support to women currently working in tech and those considering a career within the field.

This year, it’s essential we see more tech organisations taking charge and providing opportunities to women in tech. Internships, mentorship, workshops and outlining clear career progression pathways are approaches that all big tech firms can take forward to promote gender equality in STEM.

Finally, the importance of education cannot be underestimated. The prominence of stereotypes still embedded within educational and professional environments highlights a need for improvement.

Personal skills, experience, passion and knowledge are what define a perfect career path, not gender; it’s crucial that current and future generations are educated on this. We hope to see more opportunities being given to women who show an interest in joining this exciting industry.

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