The tech industry is thriving, and recruiters are crying out for smart new talent to fill an ever-growing number of job vacancies. Great! So where are the women?
Women in tech – it’s a hot topic. Why? Because the numbers just don’t add up. Look at any major tech company and the story is the same: women are significantly under-represented, accounting for some 30% of staff. At first glance, that may not even seem too bad. But when you consider how many women actually hold technical positions, the number shrinks to only 18% at Google, and 16% at Facebook and Microsoft, with Twitter lagging behind at 10%. In Europe, less than 7% of technical positions are filled by women. And, when it comes to women in leadership roles, the percentages drop even lower.
It’s in the pipeline?
So what is going on? Why is technology still such a male-dominated industry? The education system is often put to blame for not producing enough female developers or IT engineers. But this is more than a ‘pipeline’ problem. It is an image problem in society at large.
Science and mathematics are persistently seen as ‘masculine fields’, with fewer girls choosing STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects at school and university than boys despite a proven equal aptitude. A raft of initiatives like Girls Who Code and TechGirlz are working to take on this gender gap by providing girls with female role models and hands-on experience. The hope is that this will help girls consider technology as a real career option and ultimately bring more women into the field.
Changing the culture
The current lack of diversity cannot only be attributed to education, however. Apparently, something is seriously amiss in the industry culture. Research by the Harvard Business Review claims that 52% of women in STEM careers will eventually leave because of hostile work environments where the company culture is not accommodating of women. June Sugiyama, Director of the Vodafone Americas Foundation has spoken out about this, saying: “Most women don’t experience obvious forms of discrimination or sexism in the workforce… they face an undercurrent of condescension that leads to a feeling of isolation”.
Of course women are perfectly capable of fighting their own battles, but if working in their chosen profession becomes a daily uphill struggle, at a certain point other options become more appealing.
Diversity breeds success
The diversity discussion is not just a matter of principle. Having women on board – and preferably in the boardroom – is simply sound business sense. For it is a fact that when women are not part of the workforce, it is bad for the company. Researchers at the University of Castilla la Mancha, Spain, have found that gender diverse R&D teams lead to greater creativity and better decisions. Gender-diverse teams consistently outperform homogenous teams, and shifting from an all-male or all-female office to one split evenly can increase revenue by as much as 41%.
Furthermore, Fortune 500 companies with the highest representation of female board directors have been found to outperform those with the lowest representation on the board, generating 42% more return on sales. In short, smart companies employ women. But until more of businesses wise up to this, there is no point in sitting around waiting. As Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg says: “Leadership belongs to those who take it”.
don’t miss out
Get inspired by leading tech women at Amsterdam Talks Tech: The Female Edition. Book your tickets here.