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Women make up only 16% of IT professionals, a trend that has remained the same for 10 years in a row, according to WISE, the campaign for gender balance in science and engineering.
Looking into statistics from the Office of National Statistics, WISE found the number of women in the tech sector has remained stagnant for the past decade, while other parts of the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) sector have made progress in growing the number of women in core roles.
The number of women in engineering has doubled to 50,000 over the same period, women now make up almost half of people in science roles, and the number of women in management roles within STEM has risen to 14%.
“The progress made by these sectors clearly demonstrates that forward-thinking companies can create change,” said Helen Wollaston, chief executive of WISE. “The fact that women remain so under-represented in tech is incredibly disappointing. Technology roles account for 25% of core STEM roles and are among some of the most exciting careers to be a part of, and yet companies are failing to attract and retain women [in these positions].”
While many expect more women to enter the sector in 2020, there are many reasons why women currently avoid it, including misconceptions about the kinds of roles that exist in tech and a lack of visible and accessible female roles models in the sector.
There are now one million women in core science, technology, engineering and maths roles, but it isn’t enough, according to WISE.
When it comes to core STEM roles in the UK, women currently make up around 24%, but to stay on the path to sustainable representation of women in these sectors, the number of women in STEM should be at 30%.
Helen Wollaston, WISE
Since the number of women in technology roles is so low, WISE recently called out the sector for its slow approach to achieving parity, and called on the audience of its annual WISE awards to help find ways to speed up the pace of change in the sector.
Now, the campaign is calling on employers, professional bodies and educators to aim for 30% women in core STEM roles to ensure the pace of change is sustained and can continue to grow.
According to Wollaston, directors and boards should also be more accountable and responsible for creating an internal culture that promotes diversity, equality and inclusion.
“Having seen the number of women in core STEM roles reach our target of one million, we now need to keep up the momentum and aim for a target of 30% of women in STEM, which is critical mass for sustainability,” she said.
Not only has the number of women in the tech sector remained the same over the past 10 years, the number of women on technology boards has also remained low for the past two decades.
There are benefits to increasing diversity in teams – diverse teams tend to be more innovative, teams with diverse thought are more likely to build products that reflect the widespread customer base they were serving, and when people feel they can be their whole selves at work they tend to be more productive and creative.
“Directors and board members need to take responsibility and be accountable for creating an inclusive workplace culture and helping their middle management to deliver it,” said Wollaston. “Employers need to be clear – to get ahead in STEM, they need to recruit, retain and develop female talent. Failing to do so will mean being left behind.”
Read more about women in tech
- At Splunk.conf 2019 in Las Vegas, senior women in technology from firms such as Splunk, Boeing and Sandia National Laboratories gave advice for navigating a male-dominated industry.
- Computer Weekly has announced the 2019 list of the 50 Most Influential Women in UK Tech, including this year’s winner Debbie Forster.