As a female myself working in the e-business tech world. I can openly say it is a male-dominated industry. Although the male to female ratio is slowly decreasing, there is still a large segregation between the two sexes.
Let’s have a look at the proportion of women in tech roles at big companies.
In October, Microsoft reported that women comprise 29.1% of its workforce, but only 16.6% work in technical positions. At Twitter, only 10% of the technical workforce is female.
We are living in the digital era where everything is going (or already) online. Since the early days of the smartphone, the need for app developers has mushroomed.
Development vacancies are greater than the number of developers at present, which is exacerbating the technological skills shortage across UK and Europe.
It’s predicted there will be 1.4 million jobs in the computing industries by 2020. Yet, at the current rate, the US Department of Labor estimates only 3% of women will have those gigs – and I believe it will be a similar situation in the UK.
If the talent pool is so slim, how will companies be able to hire more female engineers?
There seems to be numerous factors why women shy away from these jobs, and they all play an imperative part in this gender gap in tech.
The culture of tech
New technologies are always marketed towards men. Just look at the magazines that objectify women and new technology simultaneously. If we want to encourage women into the tech world we need to get rid of the dated sexualisation of the female.
The stereotype of a geek throws up images of numerous Sheldons from the Big Bang Theory in an office. Smart, young women don’t necessarily want to hang out with brogrammers (a shorthand term for a macho, just-out-of-the-dorm-room culture that’s being imported from college campuses to start-up offices) in that comic book culture, and often feel alienated.
Also, the very idea of a technical role can put women off, suggesting sleepless nights, staring at desktop monitors and talking about Star Wars. Which can be the case, but usually isn’t.
And then there’s education. Girls are not encouraged to look at computer studies as a career option from an early age, and there are few inspirational female role models in tech to look up to.
Speaking from experience, if I was told I would be working in tech with e-commerce companies when I was studying ICT as a GCSE many moons ago (where I spent the entire class inputting figures in excel spreadsheets), I would tell you there would be absolutely no chance. ICT was a terribly laborious subject. Women just don’t see the world of technology as an option to study or pursue.
According to a e-Skills UK report, ‘The Women in IT scorecard’, in 2012 women made up 59% of all higher education students in the UK, but only 18% of those studying computer science and IT subjects were women.
Karen Price OBE, CEO at e-Skills UK, and Gillian Arnold, chair at BCSWomen, noted this trend has been worsening in recent years: “Since 2008, the gap between the genders has widened by three percentage points.”
Women may not realise that some of these technical roles are creative, stimulating and satisfying.
For instance, to be able to write code and build a visually appealing website/app from the ground up when it didn’t exist beforehand can be rewarding.
I have also heard it been said that learning code can help with foreign language skills and can help you become quicker at learning another tongue. However, I digress.
Writing code includes creating concepts, being innovative and working in a team environment, with similar like-minded people.
Girls and women need to be exposed to this creative side earlier on. If they were introduced to code at a younger age this may give them the confidence to want to work in a male-oriented workforce and not feel so uncomfortable or out of depth.
So, how do we channel more women into fields that are filled with men?
Girls need a female role model they can aspire and relate to – a role model that pops into their head like Mark Zuckerberg.
While Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook and Marissa Mayer of Yahoo are two inspiring examples of women in technology, at 44 and 39, it’s hard for female students in secondary school to relate to them.
We need younger female role models.
The future is e-business, and there are countless career paths at these technology companies alongside coding and networking.
I do not code – I help ICT/e-commerce companies on the Isle of Man incorporate and grow – so I am privileged to work alongside intelligent, creative and interesting entrepreneurs and their teams every day, and I’m lucky to be introduced to cutting-edge technologies and ideas all the time.
The industry is fast, dynamic and constantly changing. Every day is a school day.
The tech sector fortunately, unlike my ICT school class, couldn’t be further from laborious. It’s exciting, and we need more women to realise this and get involved.