Rawpixel - Fotolia
The year 2018 was dubbed the year of the woman as campaigns highlighting women’s issues, such as #TimesUp and #MeToo, shone a harsh light on the inequality between genders that still goes on to this day.
Also marking 100 years since women were given the vote in the UK, 2018 was an important year for women in every sector.
Equally as important as advancing women’s issues is creating a diverse and inclusive environment in the technology workplace – which was the theme of this year’s Computer Weekly and Mortimer Spinks diversity in technology event.
The importance of role models in encouraging young women into the technology sector has been a frequent topic of discussion in recent years, so it was positive to see in 2018 that a majority of women in the technology industry would recommend a tech career to girls.
Women also believe simply being female is a positive when it comes to pursuing a career in technology because diversity is such a hotly debated topic.
Unfortunately, more needs to be done to encourage young women into science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) as half of girls don’t see careers in the sector as exciting.
When it comes to girls and Stem, it was also found a majority of girls regret not having studied Stem subjects for longer.
Many said they regretted their choice to drop Stem subjects because Stem skills turned out to be more relevant than they had realised.
So it is not surprising to note that Code First: Girls, a social enterprise that teaches women to code, teaches more women in the UK to code each year than the UK’s university system does.
The diversity gap in the technology industry is no secret, and the UK’s growing digital skills gap is also widely discussed and feared throughout the sector.
Eileen Burbidge, chair of Tech City and government special envoy for fintech, told Computer Weekly in 2018 that it could be a case of killing two birds with one stone – addressing the lack of diversity in the industry could also tackle the growing skills gap by widening the pool of candidates from which the industry can choose.
To increase diversity in the technology industry, the focus should not solely be around gaining gender parity, according to experts.
Most conversations about diversity centre on getting more women into technology, which is something that needs to change if the sector is truly focused on creating diverse and inclusive workplaces.
Similarly, those who are creating technologies of the future need to come from a diverse range of backgrounds to ensure the tech reflects the population as a whole.
At Splunk.conf 2018, a representative from the firm said that if the technology industry hopes to engage young people from the black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) community, it should make more of an effort to seek them out, either through creating pipelines for those from minority backgrounds into the sector, or by tapping into initiatives that already exist.
The year also saw professional services network PwC partner with social initiative UKBlackTech to encourage more people from minority backgrounds into the sector, as well as a the development of a consortium of firms aimed at doubling the number of female and BAME startup founders by 2020.
Sadly, some groups still feel left out of the technology industry, as almost 30% of those from the LGBT+ community claimed to have avoided a tech career because of negative stereotypes.
Although some firms, such as Amazon, which developed internal transgender resources for employees in 2018, are doing what they can to address these issues, there is still a long way to go.
As it does every year, in 2018 Computer Weekly announced its list of the top 50 women in UK technology to shine a light on some of the role models already present in the industry.
This year saw the CEO of Code First: Girls, Amali de Alwis, take top spot in the list of inspirational and influential women in the industry.
8. Creativity and tech ‘two sides of same coin’, says 2018 Most Influential Woman in IT, Amali de Alwis
De Alwis, winner in Computer Weekly’s list of the most influential women in UK IT in 2018, said technology and creativity go hand in hand in achieving innovation, also highlighting the need for diverse tech teams in creating the products and services of the future.
Despite the large number of influential people from diverse backgrounds in the technology industry, it was found in 2018 that the number of women appointed to technology boards has been the same for the past 20 years.
Without diverse representation on company boards and in management positions, the pace of change will continue to be slow.
Regardless of the year’s activities, the same message has been broadcast throughout 2018 – the importance of role models in encouraging people outside the traditional technology stereotype to take an interest in Stem.
WISE, as well as many others, used one of its annual events to emphasise not only how important it is for people to see themselves represented across the technology industry, but also for people to realise they are role models and to take responsibility for promoting the sector to diverse talent.