Not even a fifth of tech workers are women

There is a worrying lack of female talent in the IT industry. An analysis we conducted shows that roughly 16% of workers in the Enterprise Technology industry are women. As the IT sector strives to be more inclusive and tear down prejudicial borders, for years now this remains a hurdle which seems to be hard to overcome.

So first and foremost, why is this happening? And secondly, how can we fix it? Those are the two topics that we’ll attempt to tackle in this article. We’ll try use our expertise and experience to contribute to finding a solution to the issue, but we are well aware that a few words in an article can only do so much until the entire industry takes collective action.


How could this happen?


Like we said, generally women take up roughly 16% of jobs in enterprise tech. But when we look at what those jobs actually are, we see quite a big disparity. Out of those 16%, a whopping 46% are in design and management, while only 8% are in DevOps and cloud roles. An easy thing to say would be that “women simply prefer other jobs”. At the end of the day, design and management roles can be easily found in other sectors as well, so surely women have an aversion towards IT… but that is not the case.

Women are pushed away from STEM roles in general. The true argument in this case would be that cultural pre-sets block women from even contemplating roles in IT. One element of the problem is the fact that women are generally discouraged from entering the tech sector, and the other is that when they do, there are no indicators that they would be able to progress like a man would. The promotion rates for women are much lower than they are for men, currently it stands that for every 100 men, 52 women get a promotion. It should come as no surprise that anybody who is discouraged their entire lifetime from entering the tech sector, then sees no prospect in development if they do, will work on other skills and move on to other fields.

The problem is therefore discrimination, and a consequence of this discrimination is a lack of encouragement. Take the story of Karen Spärck-Jones for example. Raised by her mother and father in Yorkshire, computer science was arguably never in reach for her until she went to university. There she joined the Cambridge Language Research Unit headed by Margaret Masterman. Masterman herself had a great interest computational linguistics, and she inspired Spärck-Jones to pursue computer science. She was a natural at it. She taught herself how to code and went on to produce work that laid the bedrock for search engines (like Google). If there was no Margaret Masterman to inspire Spärck-Jones to go into computing, the contemporary world would look very different from what it is.

Sure, not everyone is Karen Spärck-Jones just like not everyone is Douglas Engelbart (look him up, you’d be surprised what he invented). Nevertheless that 16% of women in enterprise tech shows that we have a systematic problem. A problem which makes the likelihood of another Douglas Engelbart far greater than the likelihood of another Karen Spärck-Jones.


So what can we do about this?


In terms of industry preferences, we see a clear shift in what skills are actually the most sought-after in STEM sectors and particularly in IT. The priority for IT employers is to find people who have clear leadership skills as well as cognitive and engagement skills. This falls more in-line with the professions we know women go towards more often based on research. So does this mean that we should do nothing as the industry seamlessly fixes itself?

Although that might contribute to the sheer number of women in tech, it does not fix the diversity of jobs women go towards, nor does it tackle institutional biases that might prefer men for these positions rather than women anyway.

Our position is that the industry needs to go beyond its reach and affect the culture. Besides from internal changes that are shown to contribute to the engagement of women in tech, such as female-focused workplace benefits (maternity leaves, equal salary, days off for periods for women, promoting an equal and inclusive working environment etc.), companies and recruiters need to approach women more proactively for tech jobs, and also educate them about tech in general. Tech world recruiters first need to understand that that are no jobs for men, and then different jobs for women.

Tech companies also must proactively try to show women that the tech world welcomes them, and that it is a world where they can contribute and develop without being unjustly held back. This can be done with workshops in schools, daytrips to the offices for entire classes, and naturally by letting the brilliant women they do have shine and be as proactive as they wish in encouraging others.


Main Takeaways


Like we said, we are sure that we barely scratched the surface of the depth and intensity of the gender inclusivity problem in the tech world, let alone in STEM generally. Yet, we found it important to give our two cents on the topic. As a recruitment agency specialising within the enterprise tech world, this is something we deeply care about and commit to in our day-to-day. If you are looking to hire or know someone who would like to join our roster of brilliant and capable professionals, feel free to reach out to us.


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