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Top 10 women in tech and diversity in tech stories of 2017

Computer Weekly takes a look at some of the defining moments for women and diversity in the technology industry in 2017

Equality between genders was a huge topic of discussion in 2017, both inside and outside the technology industry.

As usual, there are several initiatives that are being built and put in place to make the tech industry more diverse – but progress remains slow.

1. Tech women showcased in the 2017 honours list

The year began with many of the IT industry’s greatest names appearing in the Queen’s 2017 honours list.

Out of the tech entrepreneurs and pioneers featured, many were women, including Maggie Philbin, co-founder and CEO of TeenTech and winner of Computer Weekly’s 2016 Most Influential Woman in IT award, and Debbie Forster, management group lead of diversity initiative the Tech Talent Charter.

2. Tech gender parity: we can’t do it without support from men

Early in 2017, it became clear that gender parity in the technology industry won’t happen without help from the men who are often in high up positions in companies.

Research found that 36% of firms in the UK still do not have any women at board level, and many men stepped forward to tell Computer Weekly why they think it is important for men like them to support the diversity agenda.

A discussion between many experts in the tech and education fields also suggested that fathers are often not the problem when trying to encourage young girls into tech, as they want their daughters to do well in whatever field they choose.

3. Everywoman Forum 2017: Diversity, digital and the impact on the working world

Technology is acting as a huge disruptor across many industries, but it is also acting to increase diversity in the workplace.

As workplaces become more diverse, firms need to make their teams and offices more inclusive.

At the 2017 Everywoman Forum, a number of experts discussed how tech is impacting the world, and how firms are dealing with this pace of change amidst increasing diversity.

4. Three-quarters of women in tech think workplace flexibility is key to retention

There are more and more initiatives designed to increase diversity in the tech industry, but many firms still struggle to retain diverse hires once they have joined the organisation.

Much of this comes down to company culture, and research found most women believe more workplace flexibility, including the opportunity for remote working, is key to retention.

5. More than 60% of girls want encouragement from women in technical roles

A lack of visible role models is cited as one of the reasons why many young girls do not choose a career in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) because it can be difficult to imagine yourself in a role when there is no one else doing it who looks like you.

In 2017, research found that more than 60% of girls would like more encouragement from women already in technical roles such as coding or software development.

This includes women in all roles and levels in the tech industry, as it can be helpful to see those who have recently been through the same stages of education as you, as well as those who are further ahead in their career.

6. How tech teams can reduce LGBT+ university dropout

At the 2017 Jisc Networkshop45 event, Anna Wilson, service desk manager for Irish research and education network HEAnet, explained how technology teams can make the lives of communities of minority students so much easier if they make just small changes to their development processes.

Wilson highlighted the fact that many minority groups at universities, such as transgendered students hoping to change their details, can be affected when forced to answer questions about name or gender because of the way IT systems have been developed. This could be avoided with a little more thought by technology teams.

7. Gender pay reporting will encourage parity, says FDM’s Sheila Flavell

In April 2017, the government introduced laws making it mandatory for employers with more than 250 employees in any year to publish figures including the gender pay gap mean and median average in their organisation within 12 months.

It is well known that in most industries, including the technology industry, women are paid less than their male counterparts in the same role.

FDM chief operating officer Sheila Flavell said gender pay reporting would contribute to achieving parity in the workplace.

8. #metoo – parallels between the technology industry and Hollywood

Towards the end of the year, accusations of sexual assault at the hands of Harvey Weinstein came flooding out of Hollywood.

The year also saw a woman from Silicon Valley share her experience of inappropriate sexual behaviour by a male entrepreneur.

Both incidents resulted in hundreds of other women coming forward to share their experiences of sexual assault and harassment, and the sad truth remains that no industry is free from such incidents.

9. Role models best way to increase diversity, says Most Influential Woman in UK IT 2017 Sherry Coutu

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

This year, angel investor and founder of Founders4Schools, Sherry Coutu, took the top spot.

Alongside the most influential women in UK tech, Computer Weekly also announced the Rising Stars in the industry who are working their way towards the top 50 list, and women who have earned their place in the Hall of Fame.

For the first time, Computer Weekly published the longlist of nominations, showcasing all the women in the industry who were nominated for a place on the list.

10. Reason girls don’t choose Stem ‘rooted in society’, says Fujitsu executive

As the year drew to a close, Michael Keegan, chairman and head of product business for Fujitsu in EMEIA, told Computer Weekly at the 2017 Fujitsu Forum that the reason girls to not choose Stem subjects is deeply rooted in society.

Many believe that to encourage more girls to look into tech careers, the industry must do more to break down stereotypes and change the way the tech industry is perceived by the outside world.

Read more on Diversity in IT

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