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Hiring women could close tech skills gap, say tech professionals

Firms sometimes struggle to find the technology talent they need, but encouraging women into the sector could help them to find the skills they’re looking for

Many IT professionals think a focus on recruiting women into the tech sector could help to close longstanding IT skills gaps, according to research by Computer Weekly.

The annual Computer Weekly/TechTarget IT salary survey found 67% of tech workers in the UK believe women are the answer to tech talent shortages, but only 40% said their company has a plan in place to help improve the gender split in their IT teams.

Almost 10% of tech workers asked said hiring women would have no impact on the skills gap, while 16% said their companies have no plans at all to improve gender diversity within their organisation’s tech remit.

Not only is there a lack of women in the technology sector, but there is also a significant skills gap leaving firms struggling to find the talent they need. By making the technology sector a hostile environment for women, leaving them opting out of pursuing tech roles, the industry is potentially missing out on a host of potential talent.

Only 18% of those answering the Computer Weekly/TechTarget IT salary survey in the UK were women, slightly lower than the industry average of around 22%.

While the percentage of women answering the survey was small, almost a quarter of all participants strongly believe women aren’t well represented in higher up positions in the tech workforce.

More than half also said men need to be more involved in helping to create a more inclusive culture for women in the tech sector, a significant increase from 23% last year and 40% the year before.

But some organisations are at a loss as to how to attract talent at all, let alone female talent, with Rama Varsani, senior manager, solution consulting at ServiceNow, and co-chair of the firm’s Women at ServiceNow Employee Belonging Group, saying: “There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to diversity and inclusion. Business leaders need to take a wider perspective when it comes to cultivating an inclusive culture and growing female representation in the tech sector.

“By asking themselves questions such as why underrepresented groups are not participating in STEM education or why don’t they have career aspirations in the field, it can help them asses what the main barrier is that could be deterring certain individuals from achieving leadership positions.

“This will help identify what type of support is needed to encourage people of different backgrounds and identities to engage with science, technology, engineer and maths (STEM).”

Within their own organisations, people seem more positive about the progress of women in their tech teams, with a majority saying women have similar opportunities as men in their company.

When it comes to equal pay, 63% think women and men with similar qualifications within their organisations are paid the same, though 10% disagree.

Looking at the salaries of those who took part in the survey, the average yearly salary for female participants was around £61,640 while the average of male participants was higher at £86,392.

It’s worth noting those who answered this year’s salary survey skewed towards the more experienced, with 70% of those who answered having been in tech for more than 15 years, and 49% are in a managerial position, which may mean the above averages are less representative of the industry as a whole. In most cases, salary gaps between men and women exist because women are less likely to be promoted to higher, more well-paid positions in the industry, or they leave the sector before reaching a higher salary range.

Agata Nowakowska, AVP EMEA at Skillsoft, said: “While it is encouraging to see the majority of respondents believe women and men experience equitable pay and opportunities within their organisations, there are still lingering representation challenges. Without adequate representation, women will continue to remain a minority in the tech industry.

“Addressing the fundamental barriers that deter women from pursuing or entering tech careers is crucial for organisations. This starts with cultivating an inclusive work environment that enhances the sector’s appeal to women. Additionally, business leaders should prioritise the development of diverse leadership teams.

“All employees should have access to well-defined development opportunities and mentorship programmes. Targeted succession and learning initiatives can help in overcoming biases, empowering women to progress in their roles and assume more significant responsibilities, ultimately paving the way for them to step into leadership positions.”

Over the past 10 years, the conversation surrounding diversity in the tech sector has shifted away from talking exclusively about encouraging more women into the sector and has started to focus on diversity more widely, including people from different ethnicities, those who are differently abled or neurodivergent, people from the LGBTQIA+ community, and those from less wealthy socio-economic backgrounds.

The technology sector is making progress, albeit slow, when it comes to increasing diversity in the industry, and 41% of Computer Weekly readers said their organisations have mature diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategies in place that are ongoing and being continuously adjusted and improved upon.

On the other end of the spectrum, 9% said their organisation is doing nothing to improve DEI, and 13% said their organisations know it’s important to be doing something to improve DEI and are either just beginning something or have plans in the works.

There’s still a lot to do to improve the diversity of the UK’s technology sector, and work must come both from organisations building a more inclusive culture and from the industry as a whole.

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