“A diverse mix of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for Everyone”-Google CEO Sundar Pichai
Women have traditionally pioneered the field of computer technology, yet as we move forward in the 21st century the technology sector is still seen dominated by men. Diversity is critical in technology just like any other industry to create better and safer products and services for the benefit of society. A report from McKinsey highlighted that, diverse companies perform better, have more engaged employees, retain workers better and hire better talent, than those who do not focus on diversity and inclusion.
Employees in pro-diversity regions, like the U.S. and Western Europe, prefer to work in diverse work environments. In a survey of 1,000 respondents, 67% of job seekers overall analyse workforce diversity when evaluating an offer. This holds especially in case of the top female recruits who look at gender-diverse work environments. Despite these studies, women remain widely underrepresented in IT and core technology roles.
So where does the lacuna lie? Though tech companies offer formal gender diversity training programs to increase awareness in a bid to reduce gender bias at work and address the barriers that hinder the progress to build a diverse and inclusive team, research shows that these programs do not increase workforce diversity. After five years of organising diversity training programs for its workforce, companies subsequently reported no change in the number of women engaged in management positions.
Addressing the Gender Gaps in Technology
The Employment Gap
Though the technology industry has made efforts toward achieving diversity and inclusion into hiring talent, the real progress has been slow, represented with fewer women cross countries currently in the tech workforce.
The Degree Gap
According to the data by the World economic forum, less than a third of female students choose to study higher education courses in subjects like math and engineering resulting in being under-represented in STEM-related fields. On average, around 30% of the world’s researchers are women. Those working in the STEM fields publish less research and often receive less pay.
The Retention Gap
Though it may be relatively easy for women to begin their career in the industry, the catch lies in promotion ironically, they often stall in lower-level positions feeling stagnated in their careers. According to data from the National Science Foundation, only 38% of women who majored in computer science are working in the field compared to 53% of men.
The Workplace Culture Gap
Diversity in the workplace has a lot to do with psychological safety and a comfortable welcoming environment in the workplace. As long as workplaces don’t become women-friendly, they would not feel comfortable enough to speak up and contribute to the team constructively.
When countries and industries do not value women at an equal pedestal, women working in those countries don’t feel psychologically safe speaking up, even though they may have innovative ideas, they might hesitate to discuss.
The Founder Gap
According to a study from the Silicon Valley Bank, the founder’s gender has a direct impact on gender diversity in a start-up, and there is where the gap lies, one in four start-ups have a female founder, while 37% have at least one woman on the board of directors and 53% have at least one woman in an executive position.
The Gender Pay Gap
Women are not only underrepresented in STEM; they are also underpaid grim condition that has not changed in over 25 years. Even though STEM professionals on average earn significantly more than those in the non-STEM fields, the gender gap is still prevalent. For computing fields, on average a woman earns 87% of what a man earns. The numbers are even worse for black women in STEM who earn around 87% of white women’s salaries and just 62% of what men earn.
The IT leadership Gap
According to IDC research, the percentage of women in senior leadership positions grew from 21 percent to 24 percent between 2018 and 2019. In organizations where 50 percent or more senior leadership positions are held by women, they are more likely to offer equal pay and have higher retention rates for longer than a year, besides reporting higher job satisfaction levels.
Re-skilling and Career Development Initiatives
To bridge the gender gap, companies are making conscious efforts with re-skilling and career development initiatives to help women advance in the workplace and drive forward their careers.
IBM, through its Technical Women’s Pipeline Program, has established programs to advance women in technical leadership roles. The company aligns mid-career women with both an executive coach and a sponsor to help them navigate opportunities. In IBM, women hold a quarter of management positions worldwide and comprise 29% of the total workforce.
Deloitte has also seen the positive results for its sponsorship program aimed at its women workforce. Women accounted for 44% of the company’s workforce in the 2019 fiscal year. A quarter of Deloitte’s Global Board constitutes of women.
The bridge to mend the gender gap applies equally well among organisations, leaders and practitioners, now and in the future. Bringing women workforce with a wider range of perspectives and ideas onto the work environment can be good for creatively driving innovation and advancing the tech industry. Moreover, ensuring more female workforce can give them greater visibility as role models which may help move the needle on women’s overall tech industry representation.
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