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Top 10 women in tech and diversity in tech stories of 2021

As the year draws to a close, Computer Weekly looks over some of the notable stories relating to women in tech, diversity and inclusion throughout 2021

A lack of diversity in the technology sector has been a topic of ongoing debate for a long time, and although many initiatives exist to try to change this, the dial is slow to turn.

In the year that Computer Weekly’s list of the most influential women in UK tech entered its 10th year, what were the main conversations surrounding diversity in the tech sector, and are changes starting to take effect?

1. Biased language deters half of female candidates, finds Openreach

Hiring processes are the first port of call for most people entering organisations, but they can also be where companies fail to make the proper moves to recruit from diverse talent pools.

Openreach found that women are put off by biased language in job postings which can make it seem like roles are more suitable for men than for them.

In many cases, companies don’t realise the language they are using in job postings is biased, and Openreach suggested a number of ways to make job postings more accessible, including removing hidden gendered phrases, being aware of whether active or passive language is used, and reworking the way the key skillsets needed were described.

2. Almost 70% of IT staff say firms working on tech gender diversity

As part of Computer Weekly’s own annual research, it was found that 67% of IT employees said their firms were working on gender diversity in 2020.

While improving the gender split in IT teams appears to be forefront in the minds of many IT leaders, only 29% said their company actually had a plan in place to help improve the balance of men and women in their tech teams.

Almost 60% of those asked also said increasing ethnic diversity in their IT teams is something their organisation is working towards, and many other diversity-related topics are also being addressed.

3. More than 20% of tech employees hesitant to speak about diversity

When the Tech Talent Charter’s annual benchmarking report found many tech workers are hesitant to bring up diversity topics, TTC’s CEO, Debbie Forster, said that in some cases it may be because people are scared to say the wrong thing, but also pointed out that doing nothing at all is worse.

TTC’s research found that 22% of tech workers are hesitant to bring up diversity issues, a number that increases to 32% among ethnic minorities.

But those in the tech sector are well aware that diversity and inclusion in the industry is something that needs to be addressed, with 80% saying D&I initiatives are necessary to push progress forward.

4. Tech Nation launches D&I toolkit for tech founders

To help tech founders start their companies on the front foot when it comes to diversity and inclusion, Tech Nation launched a diversity and inclusion toolkit in 2021 to showcase founders that are doing it right, and help newcomers build more diverse and inclusive companies.

The toolkit will be frequently updated to reflect new guidance, and includes checklists, case studies and links to resources for different business departments.

5. Important LGBTQ+ figures who shaped tech’s history

Some of the technology we use today has been shaped by people from the LGBTQ+ community, although the tech sector has not always had the most welcoming reputation.

Research has found in the past, one-third of LGBTQ+ people in tech believed there was a wage gap between themselves and their heterosexual counterparts, and 30% of young people chose to swerve the STEM sectors altogether through fear of discrimination.

Computer Weekly looked at some of the LGBTQ+ tech pioneers who have shaped the technology we use on a regular basis.

6. Computer Weekly announces the 2021 Most Influential Women in UK Tech

Each year, Computer Weekly announces the list of the Most Influential Women in UK Technology alongside an interview with its winner, the Most Influential Woman in UK Tech, which in 2021 went to Darktrace CEO Poppy Gustafsson.

This year marked the 10th anniversary of Computer Weekly’s annual search for the UK’s most influential women in tech, so to celebrate the occasion, 10 names were added to both the 2021 list of Rising Stars in the women in tech sector and the Hall of Fame dedicated to honouring women who have made a lasting impact on the technology sector.

Each year, we also publish the longlist of nominees to shine a light on all of those nominated, which in 2021 reached more than 500.

7. Makers announces winners of 2021 Women in Software Power List

Each year, software bootcamp Makers showcases the amazing women who are making a difference in the software engineering sector, and 2021 also marked the second year the training provider ran its Software Changemakers list dedicated to celebrating initiatives or projects that worked to increase diversity and inclusion in tech.

This year’s 20 women were chosen for the Powerlist because they are considered rising stars in the software sector across various industries and have made a significant contribution to software development in the past 10 years.

8. TLA Black Women in Tech to launch book about tech role models

Many believe one of the reasons young women don’t pursue careers in the technology sector is a lack of visible and accessible female role models to act as a benchmark of where they can progress to in the future.

To help solve this problem, TLA Black Women in Tech launched a book in 2021, The voices in the shadow, showcasing the stories of 51 black women in the technology sector to act as the role models that young women need.

Flavilla Fongang, founder of TLA Black Women in Tech, said moving to London from Paris and seeing “more successful black people” pushed her to be more ambitious.

She said: “Without improving representation, the less fortunate are often the ones left with limited aspiration. So, I decided to create this book to revive hope. The voices in the shadow illuminates the voices of under-represented talented black women, so we can impact the present and the next generations.’’

9. Women more likely to have retrained for tech roles than men

According to WISE, the campaign for encouraging more women into careers in science, tech and engineering, women are more likely than men to have retrained in order to take a technology role.

More than one-third of both men and women asked had completed a qualification to obtain their current role, and a quarter said they had retrained entirely for the tech role they had.

The research found men in tech were more likely than women to have had a tech-related degree, perhaps factoring into why women were more likely to have retained for a tech role.

10. Women in tech lack training opportunities, says Skillsoft

Despite more and more firms understanding the importance of hiring more diversity workers, there are still barriers in place that stop under-represented groups from entering the sector.

Many have called women and untapped pool of talent when it comes to technology, but a lack of opportunities to gain the appropriate skills for tech roles is keeping them from the sector.

Research by Skillsoft found that 32% of women worldwide believe a lack of training is one of the biggest challenges they face throughout their tech careers, and just under 20% also said harassment is a challenge they have faced.

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