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Despite efforts to increase the diversity in the technology industry, little progress has been made over the past decade.
While the annual Computer Weekly and Mortimer Spinks diversity in technology event focused on achieving inclusion to attract and retain diverse talent in firms, other advice for shifting towards a more diverse sector included building diversity into a firm from the top down, and ensuring those in the majority are acting as advocates and allies for others.
Many believe the dial won’t shift towards parity for women in tech unless diversity and inclusion initiatives are measured, and as such the year kicked off with the Tech Talent Charter (TTC) launching a report to benchmark the current state of gender diversity in its signatory businesses to allow proper measurement of future progress made by following its guidelines.
More than 70% of the TTC’s signatory firms already have policies in place to promote diversity throughout their organisations, and each year the industry collaborative will release anonymised data about these members to determine whether any change has taken place as a result of these measures.
Concerns about job automation are ever increasing in the current digital climate, with technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning threatening to automate tasks and replace roles in many sectors.
While some roles are at a greater risk than others in the wake of automation, research found women are at a higher risk of job automation because of the types of roles more likely to be held by women.
Roles such as retail cashiers, manufacturing plant employees and waiting staff are not only most likely to be automated, but are also the most likely to be held by women.
A lot is being done to try to attract and retain female talent, but some firms aren’t following suit.
According to a survey by Booking.com, around half of women in the tech sector said their company was not doing anything to make gender diversity a business focus.
Booking.com CEO Gillian Tans said diversity in tech is not just about finding talent for the sector, but supporting the women who are already a part of tech, and those who are not doing their best to encourage diversity are missing out on a large talent pool.
Almost 90% of women in tech said companies could benefit from increasing the gender diversity of the through sharing different perspectives, backgrounds and experiences to those already making up a majority of technology roles.
The first annual Women in Software Powerlist was announced in 2019 by software development academy Makers in a bid to shine a light on some of the amazing female talent in the software sector.
Software development is often one of the most heavily stereotyped areas of the technology industry, seen as a boys club best suited to hoodie-wearing loners.
To prove this wrong and showcase some of the more diverse female talent in the sector, Makers paired with tech community hub Level 39 to name 30 women – considered rising stars who have been in the software sector for less than 10 years – as representatives of the best of the coding community.
These women will also act as role models for those considering the technology and software development sector in the future.
Diversity in the technology sector isn’t always about emphasising the need for equal gender representation.
There are lots of people who don’t fit the stereotypical ideals of a tech sector worker who can offer the technology and digital industries different perspectives and ideas.
Victoria Clutton, SharePoint co-ordinator for Altran UK, found her job through a charity called Astriid which helps connect firms looking for skilled workers with those with chronic illnesses who still want to work but cannot have a traditional job.
Clutton suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME), and offered the advice: “While chronically ill people need a lot of flexibility, they offer a lot of flexibility back. If there isn’t enough there to be a full-time job or a permanent job, then look at what chronically ill people have to offer.”
Each year, Computer Weekly announces the list of the Most Influential Women in UK Technology, an accolade which in 2019 was awarded to CEO of industry collaborative Tech Talent Charter, Debbie Forster.
The list of the Most Influential Women in UK Technology is designed to showcase and make accessible some of the female role models doing great things across the technology sector.
As well as the top 50, Computer Weekly also announces entrants to its Hall of Fame, women who have made a long-term contribution to the technology sector.
Several Rising Stars are selected alongside the top 50 and Hall of Fame, usually for their growing contribution to both the technology sector and the diversity in technology agenda.
This year’s Most Influential Woman in UK Tech, Debbie Forster, said: “[This is about] making things better for everyone. If we want to build places that are inclusive, we have to lead and show what inclusion means.”
Connect with others in your team, find yourself an ally and focus on continuous learning are some of the pieces of advice on navigating a male-dominated industry as given by senior women at Splunk.conf 2019 in Vegas.
A panel featuring women in technology from firms such as Splunk, Boeing and Sandia National Laboratories said there are ways to create an inclusive environment for yourself within a firm, such as finding out about others in the team to better connect with them.
They also said finding an ally at work as an advocate can help build confidence if you are struggling to bring your whole self to work due to a male-dominated environment.
Each year the WISE awards showcase male and female role models who are using science, engineering and technology in an innovative way to shape the future.
At the 2019 ceremony, the chair of WISE, Trudy Norris-Grey, stated that while science and engineering have “sped past” WISE’s goal to have one million women in science and engineering by 2020, the tech sector is lagging behind.
Norris-Grey then called on those in the room to come up with ideas to push forward the technology sector’s progress when it comes to diversity and equality.
A lack of gender equality in the tech sector is not the only discrepancy to be found when looking at industry data.
Research by Hired found a third of LGBTQIA+ people working in the technology sector believe there is a wage gap between themselves and heterosexual people in the industry.
The study also found tech is predominantly white – 3% of tech sector workers are black, 6% are mixed race, 17% are Asian.
Only 10% of the industry considers themselves “neurodiverse”, the LGBT+ community makes up just 8% of the tech sector, and women account for only 18% of tech workers.
Despite a lack of progress when it comes to women in the technology industry, change is predicted to come within the next year.
Research by travel booking platform Trainline rounded off the year by finding many people expect the number of women in tech to increase in 2020.
Investment in technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), and adoption of more agile behaviour in tech teams were also predicted for the next year.