We are at an incredibly exciting place in the tech industry. Innovation abounds, industries are being transformed and lives are being changed for the better. But, the lack of diversity in the workplace – and most noticeably in the tech industry – continues to pervade.
However, great steps have begun to address this imbalance. Just last month, the Tech Talent Charter – a commitment by organisations to deliver greater diversity in the tech workforce – reached a milestone of 200 signatories. This is a great achievement, but with women holding just 16% of IT jobs in the UK and making up less than 10% of tech CEOs, there is still much more to be done.
This is why initiatives, like the Future Stars of Tech, are so important. By identifying and celebrating our industry’s female talent, we will encourage young people to follow in their footsteps and become part of a workforce that will be unmatched in its diversity, innovation, creativity and strategic thinking.
How can we overcome gender imbalance?
It is not enough to simply fill a quota of 50/50 male to female employees; the problem of diversity is nuanced and, as such, needs to be approached in a nuanced way. We also need to look at the reasons why women are not being promoted to those senior positions. Yes, they may be doing as good a job as men in the same roles, but unconscious bias is still rife within many organisations and recognition isn’t always easy to come by.
According to a Tech Nation report, there are more than 1.5 million people already working in the digital and tech industry. How can women make themselves stand out? By taking up the call from Future Stars of Tech, women should be thinking about building their profile from the start of their career and be more forthcoming about the great work they are doing within the tech industry. By building up their profile, women will be able to take charge of their career development and make sure the people who really matter know about their achievements and milestones.
“What has worked well for me, and people that I know, is to build a personal brand,” explains Emma Maslen, senior regional director at SAP Concur.
For example, women should begin by thinking about where they want to be in three, five and ten years’ time. In the rapidly changing world of technology, it is easy to be focused only on the present moment, but the earlier women give some serious thought to their long-term goals, the better prepared they will be for accomplishing them.
Women also need to stand out and be known for specific things, so need to start thinking about what makes them different. However, actions speak much louder than words. Being able to demonstrate these differences will be invaluable. If they can show what they can bring to every project or meeting, those women will stick in the minds of those they need to impress most.
These differentiators need to be authentic but we inevitably learn new things about ourselves as our careers progress. It’ll be important to check in on those things that you want to be known for. As we get older, our values can shift and change, so women shouldn’t be worried if they need to adjust these along the way.
This will by no means be a fast process, attitudes on both sides of the issue will take time to change. However, if women begin with a plan and develop the confidence to be vocal about their work, achievements and strengths, those senior roles should open up for them too.
Impact on innovation
Of course, gender is only one imbalance that needs to be addressed. Just as gender diversity can bring many benefits, we should also be focusing on how to get the younger generation into exciting positions in the industry too.
We now have a multi-generational workforce which can bring a distinct advantage to companies. Wide-ranging ideas, experience and knowledge will not only serve an organisation but also benefit its employees too. Those young women now entering the workforce are digital natives. Growing up surrounded by technology, their digital learning curve has been through absorption and not through the necessity of having to learn in order to keep up.
The technology industry has a chance to capitalise on this. If businesses can show that they are committed to making the tech industry more inclusive and presenting not only gender, but also age diversity as a positive driving force, there will be a whole new pool of talent to tap into.
This generation can bring a fresh injection of ideas, creativity and solutions to the tech industry, as well as the ability to adopt new tech and adapt to change much quicker than previous generations.
However, by combining age with experience, today’s businesses have the chance draw upon a whole host of life experiences, knowledge and perspectives to solve problems and inform decision making in a creative, diverse and collaborative way – fuelling further innovation in this exciting industry.
Looking to the future
The current lack of visibility of women in those higher positions is creating a vicious circle by where an off-putting image is created for young women thinking of joining the tech industry – just when the digital skills shortage is being thrown into sharp focus. If we are more vocal about the opportunities and career paths available, we can encourage those with the skills needed into the industry.
Ensuring we have a workforce that is comprised of different ages, genders and backgrounds is going to become increasingly important if businesses want to prosper, be innovative and stay ahead of the curve. In fact, a recent report by McKinsey found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile – so diversity also makes great business sense.
A homogenous talent pool will only be a barrier to this. The Future Stars of Tech is a fantastic opportunity for us to shine a spotlight on those that are going to drive this industry to even more exciting places.
Sourced by Emma Maslen, senior regional director at SAP Concur