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Banishing the myth that women don’t want to work in tech: they do!

And 2to3days has the solution. Decades of progress has done wonders for workplace gender equality, providing greater representation of women working in the technology industry. And, whilst the evidence of progress proves incredibly promising, more remains to be done. With that in mind, 2to3days commissioned a survey of our network of women to get a clearer picture of the situation with regards to the availability of tech roles, and the barriers to women joining the sector. 

The aim: to understand why women remain underrepresented in many fields. 

Current gender disparities have led many industry analysts to come to one conclusion; 

The technology industry has a problem: it employs too few women.

Women in Tech Survey Results

The commissioned survey illuminated that, of the respondents, 14% stated that they already have lots of the technical knowledge necessary to apply for positions in the industry.

The 2to3days survey also found that there were several key factors working against a greater gender balance in some key industries, most notably in marketing, advertising and IT roles. Amongst the most interesting survey findings was that more than half (56%) felt that their age and gender was a barrier to finding a career in the tech industry, hinting that the perception of the industry as male-dominated acts as a strong disincentive for women to join the field. 

“The technology companies must do more to make themselves attractive to women if they want to cover the skills gap," said Juliet Turnbull, founder of 2to3days. “At the moment, women would be extremely keen to work in tech but are put off by the industry's sexist image.”

Other insights hinted at a strong willingness to learn, with more than 85% stating that they lacked technical knowledge but were willing to learn, with another 80% of respondents stating that they didn't know of a specific role they would want to do in the tech sector, demonstrating a clear ignorance gap that is currently not being adequately addressed by an industry which has a tendency to hire workers from a largely male talent pool. 

Survey finds training is key to a balanced workforce 

The 2to3days survey also demonstrated an overwhelming 85% had the willingness to learn the new hard technical skills to gain entry in the sector, with women already possessing the soft skills needed to succeed in these tech businesses. Several of the survey questions focused on training levels, requisite skills, and eagerness to learn new things, especially with regards to platforms and programs which are deployed across a range jobs- and most of which require a base-level of understanding for jobs across the sector from entry, executive level, through to mid and senior level positions. 

Literacy in analytics, Iaas providers, front-end design, project management and data science were at the top of the list of new skills most desired skills from women who took part in the survey.

Nearly half (45%) stated they were looking for a senior, or executive level role, and, regardless of seniority, participants also expressed a desire to see more job advertisements specify the hard and soft tech skills required for the position in the job ad, instead of assuming applicants will possess these skills already, as well as advertising the possibility of on-the-job training.  

With more than half of the respondents stating that they wished to work for larger SMEs (between 50-249 employees), the survey results suggest, across a number of specific positions in tech-adjacent industries, demand for key positions is high, with respondents listing a variety of specific job titles that have necessary training requirements, such as CTO, Senior Developer, Senior Project Manager, Business Analyst and Product Manager. Respondents would most like training in Analytics, IaaS, Front-End Design, Project Management and Data Science.

Industry Data Expands On a Well-Told Story of Women in Tech

A cursory look at some of the employment data, and the scale of the disparity becomes clearer: 23% of the people working in STEM fields (STEM being; Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) roles across the UK are female - and only 5% of leadership positions in the technology industry are held by women.

What’s more, the imbalance doesn’t appear likely to be addressed soon by parliament or the industry in any significant way. According to the latest PWC report, the UK’s future pipeline of technology talent is also heavily skewed towards men, with women accounting for just 15.8% of the UK’s current generation of engineering and technology undergraduates. 

This lack of a strong tech talent pipeline is starting to impact organisations, and could have a potentially disastrous impact on gender representation in the tech industry moving forward.  

Bias, stereotypes & the future of women in tech in the UK 

Understanding what the future of gender representation in the tech industry means looking at the latest statistics:

  • 83% of female millennials in the UK stated they actively sought out employers with a strong record on diversity

  • 78% of students can't name a famous female working in the tech industry

  • In 2017, 70% of Apple employees were male.

  • In 2018, 36% of Facebook’s global staff was composed of women.

  • 25.5% of Google’s leaders on a global scale were women.

  • Females account for just 15.8% of the UK’s current generation of tech and engineering students.

According to further research by PWC UK, males supercede females in the study of most STEM subjects. Overall, 83% of males are studying STEM subjects at school, compared to 64% of females. This breaks down to 17% of the males studying physics, compared to 7% of females. 

These results are seen in similar societies all over the globe. 

A study published in the Harvard Business Review (HBR), an ACS report titled “The Promise of Diversity: Gender Equality In The ICT Profession”, estimated that approximately 50 percent of women in technology jobs in Australia eventually left the profession, citing lack of experience, and a male-dominated culture as the most prevalent reasons for leaving. 

The ACS study also highlighted that the high dropout rate was due to several key factors, including; “macho culture, isolation in the workforce, unclear and/or stalled career paths, inferior systems of rewards and extreme work pressures.” 

Attrition rates tended to peak when women were in their late 30s – a period when women find both family and career pressures increasing simultaneously.. 

More Women In Tech Is Better for Business

The lack of women in technology can be traced to gender biases and stereotypes that may take another generation to dispel. However, by taking practical action to resolve gender imbalance, and by recognising the benefits of diversity in tech, employers can unlock major productivity and profitability.

According to Robert Half Team Management, improving gender balance in the tech sector requires action on several fronts, including: 

1. Strong leadership

Senior leadership has to recognise that gender equality is a critical strategic business issue – not just an HR problem. Everyone in a management team needs to be accountable for delivering against gender equality KPIs.

2. Flexible work practices

Work culture in the UK has changed significantly in the last few decades. Parents are more likely to share caring responsibilities, and employees expect better work-life balance. Advent of remote working opportunities can help to bridge this gap as well. 

3. Mentoring programs and sponsorship

These can be powerful tools for helping women achieve success in the tech industry. Whereas mentoring focuses primarily on psychological support, sponsorship can be an effective strategy for fast-tracking the careers of high-performers.

4. Targets vs. quotas

Implementing gender equality targets that are “tailored and monitored on an individual company basis appropriate to the circumstances, culture and environment.” They are preferable to hard quotas, which can result in some women being regarded unfavourably because they are perceived as being unfairly advantaged.

Training is the Path to Greater Equality

The Harvard Business Review recently exhorted tech companies to change their image to improve recruitment. It suggested that women would be more encouraged to apply to companies that featured more women in their presentations, and where the culture was seen as inclusive rather than a “work hard, play hard culture,” that featured fridges filled with beer and working late into the night.

The women who responded to the 2to3days survey noted that they have highly sought after soft skills such as analytical thinking, problem solving and working as part of a team - all critical for working in tech. The only missing piece was often the experience in hard tech skills.

More than half of respondents would like to do training on the job to cover that gap and get a better understanding of what training is available for what roles. This was echoed in the HBR article which cited research showing that job adverts highlighting opportunities to learn and grow are 35% more likely to appeal to women. 

Change Must Come From Industry Leaders

We have seen plenty of examples of what women can do in tech...and they have left a legacy for future generations of young women to follow. However, there’s much to be done in the way of levelling the playing field, and providing fertile ground for women to compete with their male counterparts.

We need to ensure that the technology sector provides an attractive and inclusive working environment and that people are able to reach their full potential. So, as well as attracting more females into the sector, industry leaders must also allow for progress once women enter the industry, and this requires a dedicated and sustained focus on positive outcomes. The 2to3days survey found that there exists an abundance of women with tech literacy in many key areas however, who just need to be reached with appropriately advertised roles when they arise.

If the technology industry is to fill its gender diversity gap, it will need to draw the net wider and search for candidates that it would not typically review. In order to reap the benefits of a wellspring of untapped potential, industry leaders, HR managers and others in hiring positions must acknowledge that adequate training is fundamental in changing the status quo, as greater diversity will only lead to better products, services and experiences for all involved- and 2to3 days is here to help with an active and ready database of women seeking flexible employment that can cover tech’s gender gap.

Talk to us today about hiring the highly capable women in our community.

Deborah Hargreaves, Founder & Director of the High Pay Centre. Deborah was the Chair of the independent High Pay Commission, and Founding Director of the High Pay Centre from 2011 to 2015.  She is the former business editor of the Guardian, a post she held from 2006 to 2010. She has written extensively about executive remuneration and other business issues both in print and online. She previously worked at the Financial Times where she was news editor and before that, financial editor. She held a variety of posts over 19 years at the FT including personal finance editor and as a foreign correspondent in Brussels and Chicago.