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Top 10 women and diversity stories of 2016

Computer Weekly takes a look at some of the defining moments for women and diversity in the technology industry in 2016

The year saw some positive change in the diversity in tech agenda in 2016, with an increased discussion around the importance of tech team diversity.

But, as usual, many were left disappointed by the lack of progress over the last 10 years, and many shocking revelations were made about the number of women in different positions and levels across the tech sector, as well as how much they are paid in comparison to their male counterparts.

1. The IT pioneers on the 2016 honours list

The year began with many of the IT industry’s greatest names appearing in the Queen’s 2016 honours list.

Out of the tech entrepreneurs and pioneers featured, many were women, including Techmums founder Sue Black, appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire for her service to technology.

Clare Sutcliffe, founder and chief executive of children’s educational organisation Code Club was also recognised on the list for services to technology education.

More great women, including Catherine Macphee, professor of biological physics at the University of Edinburgh and Jaz Rabadia, senior manager of energy and initiatives at Starbucks and science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) ambassador, were also on the honours list, marking a good start for recognising women’s tech abilities as the year kicked off.

2. Bett 2016: Gender roles should be removed, and not just in Stem

The year always begins with education technology show Bett, and this year, a panel discussing gender diversity in Stem agreed that gender roles should be removed in all walks of life, not just in tech.

The panel, led by Sue Black, agreed that stereotyping exists across many industries, and that gender stereotyping for jobs should be removed from all industries to ensure passionate people are entering the right roles without being deterred.

3. A quarter of SME IT managers are women

Research by managed services provider Altodigital found a quarter of IT managers in smaller businesses are women, and Tony Burnett, group sales director at Altodigital, said the stereotypes surrounding technology roles are being broken down.

But larger firms with a more rigid hierarchical structure are not fairing so well with diversity, and the Tech London Advocates found three quarters of tech firms do not have a diverse senior management.

It was also found by recruitment firm Hired that women in the UK tech industry earn on average 9% less than their male counterparts.

4. Everywoman launches Modern Muse career app for young women

Each year, there are new initiatives launched to try and level the playing field for women and minority groups in the technology sector.

In 2016, Everywoman used its Advancing Women in Technology forum as a platform to launch Modern Muse, an application which gives young women access to role models for careers in male-dominated fields.

By encouraging the women at its conference to sign up, Everywoman aims to provide the roles models many claim are so lacking for girls hoping for a career in the Stem industries.

The Tech Talent Charter was also launched in 2016 by Sinead Bunting, European director of consumer marketing at Monster, in an attempt to get participating businesses to more carefully assess their recruitment processes, as well as their involvement in the tech talent pipeline.

5. Gender bias in tech could ‘die out over time’, says UCL senior network architect

The slow speed of change for women and diversity in the IT industry is frustrating to many, but senior network architect at University College London Emma Cardinal-Richards said gender bias in tech could “die out over time”.

There are many initiatives and groups in place to shift the gender landscape in tech, but Cardinal-Richards explained time will also be a factor, as the “old guard” in tech who are still perpetuating the gender stereotypes begin to filter out of the industry.

6. Younger children more interested in technology careers than teens

A study by firms Nominet and Parent Zone found younger children are more likely to want a career in IT than teenagers, and many believe parents may be to blame.

Since parents greatly influence a child’s career choices, and Vicki Shotbolt, CEO of Parent Zone, claimed young women especially can be put off of careers in technology if their parents advise them to look elsewhere.

Research by O2 also found that many girls choose not to go into technology as they fear Stem subjects are too difficult.

7. Success is a driver of imposter syndrome

Imposter syndrome, is often associated with women in the tech sector, and is a term used to describe accomplished individuals who are unable to accept their own abilities.

Career coach Deena Gornick explained imposter syndrome at an event to help women in technology overcome doubts about their abilities, and claimed in many cases imposter syndrome can often come hand-in-hand with a high level of achievement.

8. Maggie Philbin wins the 2016 award for most influential women in UK IT

Each year Computer Weekly showcases the 50 most influential women in UK IT in an attempt to make role models in the industry visible to others and celebrate the achievements of women in the sector.

This year, the top spot was snatched by Teen Tech CEO Maggie Philbin, who has spent 30 years as a role model in the technology industry through various radio and television shows, as well as her efforts to get more young people interested in Stem.

9. Focus on diversity, not gender, says most influential woman in UK IT 2016

For many years, there has been a focus on getting more women into the IT industry, and many believe this will allow others into the field too.

Maggie Philbin, the winner of Computer Weekly’s most influential woman in UK IT award, claimed there should be more of a focus on diversity as opposed to just women in IT.

Philbin told Computer Weekly the focus in the tech industry should be on diversity, not solely gender, and consider other hidden factors such as social background.

10. CW@50: Women in technology – the shifting gender landscape

As 2016 marked Computer Weekly’s 50th year, we looked at how the last 50 years has shaped women in the technology industry.

Looking back even further than 50 years, to the world’s first computer programmer Ada Lovelace, there have been many ups and downs for women in the technology sector, as well as both growing and dwindling numbers over the last half century.

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