This Women’s Equality Day, we speak to seven technology professionals on their experiences with gender equality in the workplace and advise organisations on how they can provide an inclusive working environment
Women’s Equality Day is celebrated on August 26 every year to commemorate the day women earned the right to vote in 1920, when the 19th Amendment was added to the US Constitution.
It took more than 70 years of protesting from both women and men to secure the right for women to vote. An extraordinary feat that marks a turning point in the long history of suffrage for equal treatment of women and women’s rights.
However, despite decades of progress towards equality in the workplace, there remains more to be done as women continue to be underrepresented in various industries, including the technology workforce. Here, seven technology professionals share their experiences and discuss how organisations can work to make sure that they provide an attractive and inclusive working environment.
Closing the gender gap in technology
Today, only 17% of ICT specialists are women, 34% of STEM graduates are women, and women in the sector earn 19% less than men, according to a European study. What’s more, 46% of women have reported that they have experienced discrimination in the European tech sector.
Connie Stack, Chief Strategy Officer at Digital Guardian says, “Equality has come a long way since women fought for the right to vote. But whilst Women’s Equality Day was founded to commemorate a history of female suffrage, it also shines a light on persisting gender inequalities in the world today.
“In business, particularly the technology industry, these inequalities are stark. According to recent research, in the UK only 23% of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) roles are filled by women, and only 5% of leadership positions. The world should be a place of equal opportunity for all, and yet research consistently reveals just how far we have to go before this is possible.
“Many organisations are making a huge effort to change, and change can be as simple as being more female-friendly. Creating an inclusive environment where females are welcomed, encouraged and nurtured, is the first step towards greater gender equality, paving the way to a more inclusive future.”
For Karina Marks, Data Scientist and Training Lead at Mango Solutions, she was in the gender minority when studying for her masters degree. “I’ve definitely experienced the gender gap in some shape or form, though – for example at university I was one of only two girls doing a masters degree and only a handful of us went into data science. Now that I’m working in data science I don’t feel the disparity as much, although some clients seem to be surprised that I am young and female.
“My advice for young women who are considering data science as a career is: choose where you want to work for carefully. When I was looking for my first job, there were a lot of places that were incredibly male-dominated, with no women in the office or in my interviews. Both interviews for Mango had one female and one male interviewee – it gave me a positive representation of Mango in that there are a good number of women in the data science team.”
Research shows that the gender gap in technology starts at school and carries on through every stage of girls’ and women’s lives. According to a PwC report, only 27% of female students surveyed said they would consider a career in technology, compared to 61% of males. Only 3% said it is their first choice.
Tulin Green, Senior Director, EMEA Marketing at Commvault, says: “Tech and STEM fields are historically male-dominated, but women can be involved from the beginning and that starts with education. I don’t think the education system is to blame for this gender gap: I think it’s the compounded stereotypical views of what is considered either a male or female job. A quote that I read a while back said something like, “Technology is too important to be left to men!”. If that became the mantra within the STEM subjects in our education system, perhaps we would have more women building their careers within the tech industry.”
The need for more diverse role models
Often the higher up the hierarchy you look, the less diverse role models you find. There is stark underrepresentation of women (and BAME professionals) that sit in the executive boardroom. According to a report from the Rock Center for Corporate Governance, women are severely underrepresented in the C-suite with only 25% of total C-suite positions are held by women.
It’s so important to see diverse faces in leadership positions. Simply, until people see people like themselves doing well, it’s hard for them to believe they can. Sarah Martin, Community Content Developer at Exabeam, says, “As a technical writer early in my career, I worked with a group of men all of whom were at least two decades older than I. There were no other women to rely on for mentorship, so my role was quickly reduced to fetching coffee, taking meeting notes, and managing other people’s schedules. While difficult at the time, this experience taught me valuable skills that serve me well to this day—advocating for other women and encouraging them not to be shy about confronting gender-based inequality in the workplace. Sometimes, difficult conversations are needed to realise a career benefit.”
Martin continues, “Breaking the status quo means allowing all voices to be heard. This is especially true for differently-abled women and women of color. We are seeing this movement among the young generation of feminists, as they stand as allies, and support all women, not just the ones who might look like them. When we all do this, we can begin to create true equity.”
Brooke Candelore, Product Manager at BrightGauge, a ConnectWise solution, shares a similar experience. “As a woman in tech, an early challenge I faced was working in an environment where I was one of the few women in a largely male-dominated industry. I found that the key to success was gaining confidence – confidence in myself as a person and confidence in my abilities. As women, we need to empower one another and share our experiences of overcoming challenges.
“Women’s Equality Day allows us to celebrate women and raise awareness of gender equality for a healthier, wealthier, and more harmonious world. I encourage organisations to hire people of different genders, backgrounds and viewpoints. In the end, it is our differences that truly make us stronger.”
A key success factor
“It is important that every organisation or team be made up of the best possible selection of people to achieve success,” says Dalibor Siroky, CEO and Co-Founder at Plutora. “The way to do that is to bring together people of different backgrounds, perspectives and genders. By combining diverse voices, you create a stronger team and encourage an environment of acceptance and equality.”
Teams with diversity of age, gender, race and ethnicity can improve success. According to a Global Employee Survey report from Globalization Partners, companies that embrace diversity and multilingualism see better results across the board. This aligns with Gartner’s prediction that by the end of 2022, 75% of organisations with frontline decision-making teams in distributed geographies and with diverse mindsets will exceed their financial targets.
Siroky continues, “With diversity being front and center and a positive force in nearly every aspect of our lives, it’s more important than ever to ensure that women’s voices are elevated and being heard. We need to be aware of more subtle and cultural obstacles like unconscious bias and lack of diversity. It’s no secret that the number of women in tech are lower than we’d like to see, and we need to find ways to change that by integrating the voices of those in our industry equally. If we can do that, we all benefit.”
Sofia Kaufman, CPO at Zerto, concludes: “Even though 100 years have passed since the 19th Amendment was signed into law, there are many areas in which women are still fighting for equality. While topics like equal pay and the lack of women in male-dominated industries still need to be addressed, I want to encourage women across the world to use this year’s Women’s Equality Day as a reminder of their worth.
“Women achieve amazing things everyday, and we need to be celebrated in our success as much as our male counterparts are. It’s no longer time to be humble; it’s time to speak up, move up, and be proud of what we achieve.”