Why addressing tech sector diversity could close the skills gap
Zoe Morris, President, FRG Technology Consulting, discusses why gender imbalances are contributing to the skills gap in the tech sector
Despite businesses searching for positive solutions, gender diversity and the technical skills gap both still remain significant issues in the UK and global tech scene.
Men hold the majority of leadership roles in IT compared to just 5% of women, but with the sector pushing for change, it’s time for businesses to come up with a plan to level the playing field.
Why is there a lack of gender diversity within the tech sector?
Research from Hire More Women in Tech shows employing women has a positive impact on companies in the STEM sector, helping to improve business performance and productivity. If this is the case, then why do current employment stats paint a different picture, indicating a significant underrepresentation of women in IT?
While many businesses have policies and processes in place to avoid a lack of workplace diversity, only 13% of UK tech firms have female board members, which is a sobering thought for women looking to enter the sector and climb the career ladder.
This figure is well below the average you would expect to see in a thriving sector, with latest government statistics revealing that 23% employees in the finance sector are female and 32% in politics. The disparity is only further corroborated in an industry-wide survey where only 7% of respondents were women compared 11% the previous year, which demonstrates women in these roles are stagnating.
The increasing gender-gap in IT industries is the most significant issue many organisations need to address, and by creating an environment that encourages women and values their abilities, this could help in some way to reduce the widening skills gap. By proving the sector is more than a boys club, it removes the stigma and shows that a role in the tech industry is something women can make a positive career out of.
How can women close the gap in the tech sector?
To bridge the gap and solve the issue plaguing the sector, the simple solution would be to hire women with the right skills and expertise to fill the vacancies. But that is an oversimplification of a more significant problem.
Current statistics show the number of women working in the tech sector is 17%. This lowly figure could be down to the laddish ‘brogrammer’ nature that the industry is often associated with as well as a lack of influential female role models in IT leadership roles.
Removing this view is the first step that needs to be taken towards closing the skills gap. Female developers achieve the same certifications, have the same experience, and obtain the same educational background, but they are choosing to avoid the tech sector or are dropping out the industry before they’ve had the chance to make a lasting impact.
According to NCWIT, many women want to pursue leadership roles in the sector. This untapped source of talent could be the perfect solution to having a gender-equal workforce who have the right skills to perform development tasks required by your business.
Encouraging more women to take up technical roles
A recent study from Booking.com found that 80% of women in tech would recommend a career for young girls and having more positive role models in the sector gives students people to aspire towards and demonstrates that they too could achieve what they have in their careers.
Businesses need to create positive and visable profiles of women within tech roles in their business, and publicise the success they’ve had. Having these role models in place will not only counteract the negative perceptions of jobs in the tech sector, but it will also back up the view of ‘this girl can’ because there is already someone in a similar position.
This will also go some way towards making the business case for more women to be introduced into the tech sector. IT is a male-dominated culture, and by offering companies the chance to remove that stigma from the boardroom down to the development floor, it opens up the door for more women to move into tech.
Organisations should also consider investing in external STEM training to upskill current employees or creating in-house training programmes. Continuous learning is a vital part of career-development, helping people progress in their current role or move into a brand new area.
Educational programmes should also target girls at an early age, inspiring them to pursue a career within IT before they’ve reached university. Many girls only become aware of STEM subjects at the age of 11, but with IT courses facing a drop off from young women when they turn 16, it gives parents and teachers only a small window to grow their interest and make sure it peaks at the right time.
But the push to educate women on how they can become more successful in the sector shouldn’t stop when they leave academia. We’ve recently seen an increase in campaigns aimed at teaching women to code, a hugely progressive move from the sector to introduce more women into the talent pool.
For it to be a success, businesses need to realise that employing a more diverse workforce and promoting women to high authority positions is more than a box-ticking exercise. It’s a process to drive productivity, attract the top talent of the next generation and something to help bridge the skills gap and increase economic growth, but there is still a significant way to go before the tech sector is classed as gender equal.
Zoe Morris is the President of niche IT staffing firm FRG Technology Consulting, overseeing the company’s ongoing business and sales operations, employee training, and hiring initiatives. Founded in 2016, Pearson Frank is a global leader in Java, web, mobile and PHP recruitment, working to find people jobs from offices across the EMEA and APAC.