Extensive research has shown that by lacking female employees, companies are losing on diversity of creativity, innovation and thinking. Gender diversity has also been proven to be strongly correlated with higher returns and profitability. Read more about this study here.
Ironically, while the tech industry possesses the best tools to overcome the gender gap, it still is one of the worst offenders in gender inequality. According to the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT), 57% of “professional occupations” are owned by women, yet women can be found in only 25% of “computing occupations”.
Where is the lack of women in IT coming from and what can be done to encourage more women to take up a career in IT?
NCWIT claims that women predominantly leave the IT field due to “workplace conditions, a lack of access to key creative roles, and a sense of feeling stalled in one’s career.” Adding to this, the highest attrition rates are recorded with women in their late 30s – at a crossroad when women are pressured both career and family-wise. Women are not only hired less than men are but they also leave the IT industry twice as much as much as men do. Studies show that women who work in IT are interrupted during meetings significantly more often than men are; their personality is subject to evaluation in a way that men’s is not. Ironically, female open-source software contributions are accepted more often than men’s are, but only if their gender is unknown.
All this being said, it can be concluded that in order to improve the gender imbalance, a few key areas need to be addressed:
1. Getting rid of the unconscious bias
Unconscious bias has been one of the main reasons preventing more women from advancing in their careers. Being that the unconscious bias is a result of decades of social stereotypes hiding in our subconscious, it covertly rules over the decision-making process of those in decision-making positions. One example of this can easily be seen with young tech startups which usually begin with young male employees hiring from their social circles. By the time the HR has been established, the “bro culture” is very hard to eradicate.
2. Creating more female role models
A recent study on IT Leadership by Harvey Nash and KPMG revealed an alarming statistic, with the number of women in senior positions standing at just 9%. The even more alarming fact that women continue to leave the IT industry makes it extremely hard for young women starting their careers to feel encouraged about the work they do. Companies with senior female leadership give a good example to the young female tech talent on how their career can advance, increasing in such a way the company’s diversity of thought and productivity, too. By having senior female leaders as role models, employers can encourage young women to pursue IT careers, breaking the average IT person stereotype embodied in a nerdy antisocial male that keeps preventing women from trying to break through within the IT world.
3. Making everyone accountable
Not only women, employers and HR, but male leaders too, need to recognise the presence of gender inequality in the workplace and work on actively eradicating it. That means that management teams need to be accountable for maintaining a healthy gender diversity in the workplace. In order for everyone to understand the importance of this, companies could invest in sending their male employees to attend female tech conferences, where men too would get a chance to hear about the experiences of women within the IT sector and what exactly could be their role in encouraging more women to join the tech industry and stay. Lack of women in tech has gained a lot of attention lately and even though businesses are trying to participate in engaging more women, it is necessary to understand the importance and benefits of having more women within IT and what can be done to solve the problem - not only company-wise but cross-industry.
Raising awareness about the unconscious bias, providing anti-bias trainings, sending both men and women to female leadership events and proactively working on eradicating the bro-culture could be the way towards attracting and retaining more women within the IT sector. This could also result in encouraging young female talent to continue pursuing their IT education and offer everyone fair and equal opportunities.
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