Closing the diversity gap: challenge accepted

A former Google employee recently published a memo containing a series of ‘observations’ related to the company’s diversity programmes. This now infamous memo included comments on women’s ‘neuroticism’, ’lower stress tolerances’, and supposed lack of ability to tackle ‘traditionally male’ subjects like science, technology and engineering.

Of course, he’s wrong. But his memo, and his attitudes, show that the industry still has lots to do to change hearts and minds.

Starting with what can be measured most easily – pay. There is still a significant pay gap in the IT and tech sector. A 2016 study by Deloitte put the overall gender pay gap at 9.4%, and 8% for STEM job roles (science, tech, engineering and mathematics). At current rates, pay parity in STEM roles won’t be achieved until 2069.

Then looking at the representation of women in STEM workplaces. While there tends to be a lot of focus on the perceived differences between men and women in the media, science suggests women are a lot more alike than men might think.

>See also: Women in IT Awards 2018: nominations open!

There’s little or no practical difference in ability or physical brain structure between the sexes. But the legacy of outdated attitudes towards the relative strengths of men and women is that too few women are considering STEM jobs as a career, even if they are qualified to do so. As many as 70% of women with STEM qualifications do not go on to work in relevant STEM industries. So we need to make changes – today.

The idea that men are better suited to technology jobs is long-held but completely wrong. Alison Whitney, Deputy Director for Digital Government at GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) is determined to knock down the barriers that could prevent talented people – regardless of gender, sexual orientation, age, ethnicity or religion – from being successful in the technology sector.

Whitney’s post is about more than just promoting NCSC’s gender equality programme, a drive that has resulted in an above-industry-average of 35% women in its workforce. It’s also a rallying call that challenges other organisations to shout about their gender equality programmes and share their experiences.

The overall aim is to raise awareness of the issues facing women in technology and STEM jobs. Because it’s only by talking about it that we’ll start to break down the stereotypes that are feeding this problem.

>See also: Tomorrow’s Tech Leaders Today

BAE Systems believes everyone in the sector can make a difference. In the spirit of Whitney’s challenge, here is just some of the work BAE Systems is doing to tackle gender inequality and fight regressive attitudes.

As well as workplace initiatives, the organisation thinks it’s important – and logical – to focus on making a difference in education. It is supporting programmes that encourage more children to take an interest in STEM, such as the NCSC’s CyberFirst bursary programme, which offers £4,000 to students studying STEM subjects.

When you’re a student, role models are essential. This’s why BAE Systems recently held an open day for school girls to meet women who have carved out successful careers in technology. The event was a great success, which saw 40 students and 20 teachers take part. It’s important to hear the experiences of those who’ve gone before, so we regularly provide career information talks aimed at female undergraduates. Information Age hosts a similar event to tackle the issue, called Tomorrow’s Tech Leaders Today – technology’s largest careers day exclusively for female students and graduates, taking place on January 31st 2018.

BAE Systems also continue to focus on making a change in it’s own the workplace. The organisation has a number of employee groups and networks that aim to increase awareness of the challenges around gender stereotyping and everyday sexism.

It ensures it has a strong female presence in external awards by actively encouraging our female employees to enter and showcase what they have achieved. BAE Systems female colleagues proactively look for opportunities at speaking events and forums to celebrate success, provide inspiration and be role models for others.

>See also: Succeeding as a woman in tech: advocacy is the answer

The company encourages staff to personally contribute to creating a more inclusive workplace, and each part of our business has a Diversity and Inclusion working group in place. After all, change can only really start at the grass roots.

It is also looking at its recruitment process to help appeal to a more diverse set of candidates.

The industry is fighting a battle on two fronts: it needs to encourage more young women to enter STEM fields, but also needs to combat the detrimental attitudes of some people in the industry. BAE Systems are committed to playing our part in this hugely important endeavour.


Sourced by Mivy James, head of Consulting, National Security / Technical Consultant at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence


The Women in IT Awards is the technology world’s most prominent and influential diversity program. On 22 March 2018, the event will come to the US for the first time, taking place in one of the world’s most prominent business cities: New York. Nominations are now open for the Women in IT USA Awards 2018. Click here to nominate

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...