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A lack of diversity in the technology industry “put off” a number of female IT professionals at the start of their careers, according to research.
The study, by Kaspersky Lab, found that 34% of female IT professionals in Europe were uncomfortable about the gender imbalance in the industry at first – and 29% of men in the sector said the same.
Ilijana Vavan, managing director of Europe for Kaspersky Lab, said: “There is continued under-representation of women in IT across Europe. While there is no overnight fix to balancing the gender divide in our industry, our research and debate help us to understand how we can attract more interest in tech and cyber security and make it more attractive and accessible to women.”
A lack of visible role models in the technology sector is said to deter young women from choosing roles in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects, because they cannot see anyone like themselves in these roles.
Young women have also said they would like to see more encouragement from women in Stem.
A lack of gender diversity is preventing a number of women from considering certain roles or companies, according to Kaspersky.
Its research found that 53% of female tech workers across Europe would be less likely to join an organisation if there was a clear gender imbalance, something that was true of only 38% of men.
Previous research has suggested that many young girls believe Stem subjects are “too hard” and this puts them off pursuing such roles later in life, something that they often regret. Kaspersky’s research also found that 10% of women in the tech industry would describe an IT career as “daunting”, but only 6.5% of men in the sector felt the same.
Many believe that to really shift the dial concerning the lack of gender diversity in the tech industry, the men in the sector, who make up the majority of the decision-makers, need to help make this change – perhaps by refusing to join organisations that have a gender imbalance.
The survey showed that the proportion of women who were uncertain about pursuing a career in technology because of gender imbalance was higher in the UK than in Europe overall – 37% compared with 34%.
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Negative stereotypes surrounding the types of role and people in the technology industry are a factor contributing to the imbalance, as well as the lack of women in the industry already. Only 9% of IT professionals in the UK said they worked in a mainly female team, while 56% said they worked in a mainly male team.
In the UK, a quarter of women in the sector said they had witnessed “mansplaining” in their day-to-day roles, highlighting the need for a more inclusive culture in the workplace.
Partnership between government and education providers was cited by 40% of female IT decision-makers as the best way to increase the number of girls choosing Stem subjects.
Others said there was a lack of knowledge about what technology roles actually involve, on the part of teachers, parents and young people, which results in people assuming that software engineering is the only type of tech role available.
India Lucas, policy manager for skills, talent and diversity at TechUK, said: “We need to challenge current perceptions of what a career in tech is. It’s not one single thing. Organisations need to challenge recruiters to find them female candidates, and we need education to challenge unconscious bias.”
For example, many think there is too much emphasis on coding in the UK’s computing curriculum, and that more needs to be done to promote the mix of technical and soft skills needed for a career in tech.