Harnessing tech can help breakthrough the gender gap glass ceiling

The glass ceiling is not a new concept and has been a fundamental and pervasive problem in global business for decades manifesting itself in the gender pay gap and a significant lack of women in senior positions. The statistics paint a depressing image, with not one sector in the UK having more than 33% of women in senior management positions, and the average percentage around 25%.

However, over the past few years the issue has been put in the spotlight, following a number of high profile scandals in the media. There has also been a significant effort from companies to try and redress the gender balance in business, contributing towards some cracks beginning to appear in the glass ceiling.

This shift in business norm has been brought about not least thanks to the realisation that having equal representation in the top positions makes as much business sense as it does ethical.

>See also: AWS championing diversity in technology

Even with this positive change in attitude, much more still needs to be done to break the glass ceiling once and for all. Ironically, while being one of the best tools to drive this aim forward, the technology industry is one of the worst offenders in gender inequality.

According to recent research, while women make up 50% of social media users and gamers, only one in six technology specialists in Britain are women, yet they make up nearly half (47%) of the entire UK workforce. Adding further insult to injury, fewer than one in ten of these female tech specialists are in senior management positions.

The statistics can’t hide the truth that while many positive steps have been made in the right direction, much more needs to be done to break the glass ceiling. One of the main obstacles that has prevented women from reaching the top positions across almost every single industry has been unconscious bias.

Based on deep, inherent social stereotypes, both positive and negative, that exist in our subconscious, unconscious bias has for decades affected and, in some cases, dictated the decision-making process and behaviour of those who have power over hiring or promotion choices.

>See also: Lack of female speakers at CES: highlighting the gender problem in tech

One technology now being used to combat this pervasive unconscious bias is artificial intelligence (AI). A number of recruiters and employers are harnessing sophisticated software systems which harness AI algorithms to help ensure that all candidates are judged solely on competence and experience rather than deeply entrenched subconscious biases. Driven inherently by data, the AI algorithms are trained rigorously to ignore historical prejudices, ensuring they don’t repeat the mistakes of the past.

Easily accessible and widely used communication tools such as Slack, IM and iMeet are another set of technologies being harnessed to help break the glass ceiling. As attitudes towards flexible working turn away from taboo to an understanding it creates more productive, healthy and ultimately smarter workers, many are using such technology to enable remote working when returning from maternity leave or studying part time for new qualifications.

This technology enables anyone to make rapid decisions, regardless of time or location, meaning that everyone on the team can stay involved and up to date on the important details, plans and issues that need resolving quickly.

Ultimately, technology that enables flexible, smarter working will help anyone who wants to reach the top positions in their industry, ensuring they can be productive anywhere, at any time.

>See also: Tomorrow’s Tech Leaders Today: Inspiring female graduates

Blockchain, the technology that underpins cryptocurrencies, is another exciting technology that could also help break the glass ceiling across the world. An immutable, globally distributed ledger, any qualification or experience added to the blockchain will be instantly verified by the organisation it pertains to as being either true or false. This kind of verified CV will mean that there will be no doubt as to which candidate has the most experience or right qualifications.

In a highly competitive job market, this is essential for both employers and candidates. For female candidates in particular, they will be confident that when applying for a new job their qualifications and experience cannot be refuted or ignored and it is more likely they will be judged on their experience, rather than their gender.

The industry itself still has a way to go in terms of becoming more equal at the top, technology has the power to truly help break the glass ceiling. Through harnessing the likes of AI algorithms, blockchain technology and readily available communication tools, technology can empower everyone in business to create a more positive, equal playing field.


Sourced by Charlotte Attwood, head of Women in Tech

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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...