Women in Technology

The tech industry is progressive and innovative, but not when it comes to women. It’s a man’s world and women in technology are in the minority.

In the UK, a report (Observer 2017) found that 74% of young girls expressed an interest in STEM subjects and computer science, but only 25% hold computing jobs. And this has declined from 36% in 1991. It’s no better in the US where women have only 25% of the IT jobs. And 56% of them leave at the peak of their careers.

What is putting women off tech careers?

The pay? The average gender pay gap in the UK is 18%, but in the technology sector it is 25% (Mercer UK 2017)

The culture? A ‘sales driven’ culture usually means an alpha male, boys club culture. Women are likely to find themselves in a room full of men. They often feel under pressure to ‘be one of the boys.’ Or get out.

The sexism? Uber’s alleged atmosphere of sexual harassment and gender discrimination definitely hasn’t helped. Nor did Google’s James Damore manifesto on why women are biologically inferior. Thankfully they fired him.

The role models? 30% of 450 technology executives said that their groups had no women in leadership positions (Reuters). There have always been brilliant women in technology, but we need more of them.

What’s being done to inspire and empower young women?

Successful women in tech are leading the way:

  • Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg set up LeanIn.Org in 2013. This not-for-profit organisation is dedicated to helping women achieve their ambitions. Women can connect to a global community through support circles giving them access to peers, mentors and the opportunity to learn from each other.
  • Since she took over You Tube in 2014, Susan Wojcicki has most definitely made herself heard and raised awareness of the gender gap in Silicon Valley. Now, female employees have grown from 24% to 30%. And over at Google, numbers have increased to 31% from just 1%.
  • In the male-dominated world of venture capital, Kirsten Green is blazing a trail. She is founder of Forerunner Ventures, a venture capital company that has backed female-led startups like Birchbox and Glossier. Around 40% of Green’s portfolio is invested in women-run companies and six out of seven of the executives in her firm are women.
Initiatives in the UK:
  • Tech Talent Charter was set up to ‘elevate the debate and actions to support more women in technology’. Any organisation can sign up to their charter and make a commitment to improving diversity in tech. The UK government signed up in January 2018, and a whole range of UK companies have followed, committing to diversity in their workforce.
  • PwC have just launchedTech She Can The objective is to get to the grassroots of schools and education to help bring more young girls into technology. And to have more businesses open to taking women into tech careers. Twenty organisations are already on board.
  • Girls in Tech is a global organisation that organises conferences where women can pitch their ideas, hackathons where they can build them and bootcamps where they can learn the skills needed to get a job in tech. Check out Girls in Tech London for the latest conferences, events and resources.
  • The WISE (Women into Science and Engineering) campaign is an initiative that encourages women and girls to pursue science, technology, engineering and maths-related courses in school or college and move on into related careers. Their mission is to add another one million women to the STEM workforce in the UK.
In Europe:

There is The European Centre for Women and Technology, a partnership of more than 130 organisations that support women in tech from all over Europe. And The European Ada Awards recognises women in technology issuing annual awards such as Digital Girl of the Year, Digital Woman of the Year and Digital Impact Organisation of the Year.

However, one place to watch is Asia. In China, women are flexing their entrepreneur muscles like never before and they now run half of all internet startups.

And the tech sector for women to watch is Virtual Reality (VR). According to Luciana Cavalho Se, Head of Partnerships at Virtual Reality (VR) agency Rewind. ‘VR is fast becoming a medium in its own right, carving a space alongside music, art, film, and television. Sitting at the intersection of art and science, it has the potential to appeal to and engage girls and women of all ages, unlike any other medium before it.’