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Gender diversity remains a stubborn problem, with progress disappointingly slow. This year’s Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO survey, which captures the views of more than 3,600 technology leaders around the world, finds there has been almost no change in gender diversity in the profession since last year’s survey.
And yet this is not for the want of trying. Employers are increasingly demanding diverse shortlists. It’s an issue that is firmly on their agenda and one they want to change.
So where does the problem lie?
First, we need to accept that this issue has many contributing factors. These include the issue of attraction. Businesses need to attract female candidates for tech roles in the first place, whether senior, mid-ranking or entry level. But there is still a problem around perceptions of technology – many younger women aren’t attracted to it because they don’t feel the connection.
It is often the case that the women who are in technology got into the industry through a side-step move in their career – perhaps after being involved in a human resources (HR) or marketing project with a tech aspect, for example – rather than it being a strategic choice from the outset.
It’s important that we keep on working to change the way technology is viewed as a career, especially by the new generation, and bring out the many ways in which women are brilliantly suited to it. Many tech roles involve the need for innovative thinking, communication, relationship building, influencing and listening – skills that a lot of women possess in abundance.
There is also an issue with the recruitment adverts and other materials that some businesses produce. The language used is often male-centric – “strong personality”, “results-driven leader” – and unwittingly deters women. Companies need to stand back and ask themselves if they can make it more gender neutral. Photography and imagery, which also needs to catch the attention of women, is often also male dominated.
Natalie Whittlesey, Harvey Nash
Job specifications frequently include a long list of essential qualities and experience. Research has shown that men will usually apply if they tick the box on about 60% of them – whereas many women will only do so if they can tick nearly all of them. This means hiring managers should focus on the genuine essentials of the role to keep lists shorter.
Then there is the issue of selection. Many businesses still aren’t selecting in an inclusive manner. Removing names from CVs received can be a good idea, as is having a diverse group of people reviewing the CVs to counter any unconscious bias. Male-dominated interview panels do not help either – it pays to ensure that there is some female representation.
When it comes to candidate shortlists, businesses are often pleased if they have included one woman, but in fact where this is the case, she may unconsciously be viewed as “the outlier”. If there are two (or more) women on a shortlist, statistically the likelihood of a female candidate getting the position rises significantly.
Finally, there is the crucial issue of retention. We need the women that come into or who are already in technology to stay and forge fulfilling careers. Female networking groups, mentoring systems, the availability of sponsors to act as sounding boards – all of these are vital.
We need as many visible female role models as possible to inspire and motivate other women. The more that women in tech go into schools, speak at seminars, participate in roundtables and demonstrate how women can lead successful careers in this great industry, the better.
I can’t think of a better career where there is the opportunity for women to make a difference, be creative and earn good money. We need to shout about that more.
Read more about diversity in IT
- Patricia DuChene, general manager EMEA and vice-president of sales at Wrike, discusses the fine line between diversity and inclusion, and shares some lessons she’s learnt during her career.
- Women in technology claim diversity is still not a focus for their employer in a majority of cases, according to research by Booking.com.
- Just over one-third of women in the technology sector say the lack of gender equality in the industry made them uncomfortable at the start of their career, a survey by Kaspersky Lab has found.
- Byron Calmonson, director of The Resourcing Hub, claims the only way to ensure diversity and inclusion in an organisation is to set measurable targets.