“We all know that diverse teams perform better and in a competitive market, everyone is battling for talent. In spite of this, women in tech remain an elusive group,” says Lexie Papaspyrou, head of academy at Sparta Global.
“The issue with diversity is that we don’t really have good data that tells us why there aren’t more women in tech and that’s largely because a lot of the problem is hidden.”
Papaspyrou poses six questions that need answering before we can understand the problem around getting women into tech. These are:
- Are company hiring practices to blame?
- Are companies failing to incorporate inclusive talent strategy?
- Are universities to blame for not getting more women into technology or STEM courses?
- Are schools failing to encourage more girls to study STEM subjects?
- Is it the parents’ fault for funnelling kids towards certain aspirations?
- Maybe it’s just women: are they just worse with technology?
She points out, “The prevailing commentary seems to be that tech companies are, whether consciously or not, propagating a sexist status quo.”
The Tech Talent Charter
The Tech Talent Charter, a UK Government-backed initiative to tackle gender imbalance in the tech workforce, has gone some way to providing data on the problem of women in tech by tracking and reporting on gender diversity in technology roles across the UK.
Its inaugural benchmarking report, released today, considers the answers of 200 signatories to the charter, representing half a million employees.
The Charter found that across signatories, women hold 26% of technical roles compared with 19% across the UK. This result suggests that the companies committing to the charter are delivering on the ideas of gender inclusivity and are bringing women into technical roles.
Debbie Forster, chief executive officer of Tech Talent Charter says: “For the first time, we’re bringing together sector-wide data that is not just a restating of the problem – it allows companies to measure their own practice against others and to learn from each other to create solutions.
“We’re also painstakingly documenting existing best practice from across the sector and the huge range of organisations, initiatives and schemes businesses can work with to drive inclusion and diversity themselves.”
Women in tech outnumber men in micro businesses
The survey found that in micro businesses women even outnumber the men in technical roles, taking 53% of those jobs.
Zoe Amar, founder and director of micro-business Zoe Amar Digital says, “There is an arms race for employees with good tech skills and all organisations need to think creatively about how to attract them.
“We use online tools to communicate and manage projects virtually, enabling my team to work easily from anywhere, but also to balance this alongside other professional or family commitments. More organisations need to work in this agile way.
“This year we plan to grow our team again and develop their leadership skills further so we can inspire more women into careers in tech.”
Inclusion policies should be part of company culture
71% of signatories to the Tech Talent Charter have active diversity and inclusion policies as part of their recruitment process, and the 27% who don’t are putting them in place next year. About a third say they have policies to increase numbers of women in interview shortlists, and another third say they are adding this to their agenda.
Tech Talent Charter CEO Forster says, “We believe that, first and foremost, any policy that is implemented should align with a company’s unique culture. If a policy cannot fully capture company culture, businesses should focus on identifying the metrics and measurements that will set them up for sustainable progress. Our members know that if you genuinely build an inclusive culture, diversity will follow. Policies can and should underpin culture but the culture is the essential component.”
Less women engineers and programmers
The Tech Talent Charter broke down the specific job roles and numbers of women from their signatories in each category. It found there are more women in user-centred design roles, making up 48%, and less in engineering and programming, making up only 15%.
Theresa Palmer, head of diversity and inclusion at BAE Systems, says, “To date, the tech industry has only been able to provide anecdotal evidence and a limited amount of analytical data that suggests women are not getting equal opportunities in the field.
“Larger companies are struggling even more than smaller organisations to level the playing field. As a large, global employer BAE Systems takes this finding seriously and wants to work hard to ensure we stay ahead of the statistics and lead the way.”