Why Aren’t There More Women in Tech?

Women in tech feature image

Gender diversity is essential to any industry, yet within the tech industry only 24% of computing jobs are held by women and 11% of the engineering workforce is female.

Research from Nominet revealed that increasing the number of women working in IT could generate an extra £2.6 billion a year for the UK economy. So why are there not more women working in the IT and technology sector? 

In this blog we’ll explore the trends within the IT and tech industry including barriers women face when it comes to beginning and maintaining a career in technology.

Women in Technology

How Many Women are Currently in Tech?

Firstly, let’s take a look at what comes under the scope of women in tech. When it comes to the technical roles, it is a mostly male dominated field. Although this doesn’t mean there are no women employed at tech companies. If you take me for example, I am not in a technical role however I lead a health-tech company. Similarly, women make up 60% of non-tech roles at Facebook. 

While there is evidently an imbalance when it comes to the ratio of male to female staff within these companies, it’s interesting to consider whether the non-tech roles are filled predominantly by women out of preference or because this is their only opportunity to enter this sector. When we consider women in the tech industry, it’s important to look at the whole make-up of companies, from top to bottom. It’s worth noting that 77% of tech director roles are filled by men, although extensive experience in this field is required for these roles. 

Computer Screen with Code

What Barriers Do Women Face in the Technology Industry?

Over the past decade, the barriers preventing women from entering the tech industry have been recognised and are now being addressed. I believe that the figures don’t reflect this yet, due to the fact that obstacles women in technology face begin when they are girls in education. We should expect that the number of women in the tech sector should only continue to rise, although it’s worth looking over how we got to where we are today.

As a result of women being historically underrepresented there are very few role models for young girls, to inspire them towards a career in tech. Adding to this, barriers have frequently started during education, due to science and technology subjects being pushed towards boys rather than girls. This is changing, however as a society we have to work harder to push through the unconscious bias of recognising these roles as masculine and remove barriers for girls wanting to enter into the field. 

Woman sitting at a computer

The problems only grow once we look at hiring women for tech roles. Due to the lack of girls studying science and technology, the talent pool of female developers is much smaller. This creates a gender gap, leading to male developers being frontrunners during the hiring process as their talent pool is much larger. Employers looking to hire tech talent are searching for the best of the best and with fewer women in the running, there are a smaller number of women who will make it. 

Although if you are successful, the next obstacle is maintaining and progressing in your field. Advancement for women in technology roles is limited, with research showing 20% of women over the age of 35 are still in junior positions. These limits on progression lead to a much higher number of women leaving the tech industry, 45% higher than men. However it’s worth noting that a large contributor to this figure is likely the rapid nature of technology advancements, which can cause an individual to be left behind if they step out from the industry (i.e taking maternity leave). Advancements in tech roles for women are also limited due to their discouragement and limits during education. It’s important for staff to have extensive knowledge of IT and technology to be suitable for senior management roles. 

Typing on a computer keyboard

Why is Fewer Women in Tech Bad for the Industry?

Historically, having a demographic of people underrepresented in an industry ultimately leads to products and services failing to consider and cater to them. For instance, in 2014 when Apple first released their health app it had the capacity to track almost everything, from inhaler use to sodium intake, yet it completely overlooked the basic bodily function experienced by 50% of the population – menstruation. This was a clear reflection of the lack of women in this working environment seriously impacting the outcome. In fact, it took over a year for Apple to rectify this. 

The bottom line here is that we need women to have the access and opportunity to work in IT and technology if they so wish. I don’t believe that a complete split across men and women in all roles and companies is the answer to the problem, instead we should focus on wide representation of men and women across organisations and in leadership positions. Sheryl Sandberg puts it best. “No industry or country can reach its full potential until women reach their full potential. This is especially true of science and technology where women with a surplus of talent still face a deficit of opportunity.”

Women laughing at work

How Can We Get More Women in Tech Roles?

As I’ve previously mentioned, the root of this problem begins with education. The most recent statistics show that around 19% of STEM graduates are female. Encouraging more girls to study STEM subjects is crucial to getting more women working for IT and tech companies, especially in technical roles. While there are still limited numbers of female STEM graduates, there are efforts employers can make to help shift attitudes and increase the opportunities of women. 

In order to make sure you’re hiring the right people it’s important to remain unbiased. One way of doing this is to try and avoid noting whether a candidate is male or female during the process of selecting CVs to call for an interview. Applying an element of positive bias when it comes to women can also help. In my workplace we are a tech organisation of 40% women, and although our developer team consists entirely of men, our leadership team is 71% women! It’s important to us to aim to hire women into all roles, but we recognise and maintain the need to employ the right talent to fill these jobs.

The growing number of female role models in tech will have a positive impact on the number of women entering the IT and technology industry. Recently Sheryl Sandberg was labelled as ‘Female COO’ of Facebook, as opposed to simply ‘COO’. Making the effort to highlight the wins for women in these roles is important. Of course we want gender equality in the industry, but for now it is crucial to maintain the momentum until we see a real shift towards a fair number of women in this sector. 

Whilst it’s important to aim for an even split between genders within a workplace, it can be hard to achieve a 50/50 split across a range of job sectors as this isn’t always reflective of personal attributes. The key is not having an unconscious bias towards men, and ensuring there is equal opportunity through the chain within a company. But overall, if an even split isn’t being met this is not always entirely negative or indicates an issue with sexism. Perhaps a crucial element we need to consider is how to keep women in these jobs as opposed to solely focussing on entry.

Red headed woman working at her computer

Final Thoughts

There are a significant number of women in the tech industry today, when you consider how we define ‘women in tech’. Technical roles such as coders and developers may be male dominated, but when you look outside of this and consider companies as a whole, you will often find there are a healthy number of female employees and leaders. 

In recent years, the stigmas surrounding women in tech have virtually disappeared. There is an abundance of schemes and initiatives today to help women into these roles if they wish to pursue a career in tech. I believe we have already made huge steps towards change and moving forwards we will only continue to see more women working in the tech industry, in both technical roles and supportive/managerial roles.