No more barriers to entry: Why tech needs women

By David Rai, below, CEO, Sparta Global

There is no doubt that now is a hugely exciting time to be working in tech. Employers are more progressive, organisations more inclusive, and diverse perspectives are encouraged in the workplace. Yet in today’s seemingly more democratised corporate landscape, women still face barriers to entry across the digital sector. There are still prominent gaps between men and women in technology across employment, promotion, education, pay, retention, and workplace culture. Technology needs women; their fresh thinking, diverse perspectives, and passions, but how can the industry ensure it is rising to meet the needs of society without diverse teams building its products and services.

The power of diversity

Women in Tech’s 2023 survey found that women still only account for around 26% of people working in IT. Whilst this is an improvement from the figure of 19% in 2019, much more work needs to be done to get to a place of gender balance.

Striving to improve gender diversity in the tech industry and workplace is not an empty slogan — it is a smart business decision.  It has been proven that women in leadership roles have an innate ability to make a powerful and progressive business impact – from driving innovation and new business opportunities, to spearheading inclusion and ESG initiatives. Women display natural humility, self-awareness, self-control, and emotional intelligence, and the tech industry should embrace the rich possibilities that can be unlocked by harnessing these skills.

One study by Gartner revealed that a highly diverse environment can improve team performance by up to 30%. Diversity can also lead to better decision-making and higher profitability. In fact, according to McKinsey & Company, the most diverse companies outperform their less diverse peers by 36% in profitability.

By disrupting workplace homogeneity, teams are more likely to re-examine facts and maintain objectivity. Diverse teams also encourage greater scrutiny of each other, allowing individuals to identify their own biases with ease, which will remove the risk of narrow-mindedness and entrenched thinking, which often results in poor decision-making.

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024

Breaking down barriers to entry 

Identifying there is a powerful and important need to commit and empower more women in technology roles, is simply the catalyst for positive action. Making meaningful moves toward a more gender diverse technology team requires focus across a number of key areas, including hiring strategy.

Sometimes employers may not realise their recruitment strategy is not inclusive or appealing for women. From assessing language use to how a company ensures transparency around pay equity, there are vital steps employers must make to attract more women into the fold. These actions may include; implementing a gender-neutral and inclusive tone of voice across your employer brand, adding diversity disclaimers in job descriptions and a non-discrimination statement on your company website, and developing a family-friend work environment with flexible working policies.

A platform to lead

Diverse hiring policies and strategies are the first step, but once women are employed, they must be met with a workplace culture that embraces and supports them further.

Practically, sex falls under protected characteristics according to UK law, which means businesses have a legal obligation to treat all employees fairly, regardless of how they choose to identify themselves. However, building a place where women feel like they belong also encompasses encouraging women to pursue further tech education, ensuring fair pay, implementing policies that support diversity and inclusion, and celebrating the visibility and accomplishments of women in tech.

Making women in tech more visible in your organisation should also mean more equitable promotion opportunities. A 2022 report from McKinsey found that only 86 women are promoted to a manager for every 100 men across every industry, but when isolated for tech, that number drops to 52 women for every 100 men. Women can only inspire the next generation when they are empowered with visibility in more senior and leadership roles. This also factors into an organisation’s ability to retain top women in tech talent. Often, retention is a factor of workplace culture and inclusivity. It’s one thing to be able to recruit women, but organisations must be inclusive for women to want to stay.

Early signs of success

More women in leadership, means more women in visible positions for younger girls to see as role models. Women in Tech’s 2023 survey of more than 500 people who currently work in the technology sector, found 22% of people think the main reason women do not pursue a career in tech later in life, is because of early misconceptions about the industry that come from a lack of education opportunities for young girls. By seeing more female role models in tech, young girls will start to see IT as a realistic and attractive career option.

In conclusion, women are wanted in the technology industry, but more critically – they are needed. Educators, employers and society as a whole must work together to ensure girls are introduced to IT at a younger age and are exposed to inspirational, female role models. Meanwhile the workplace must continuously work on its genuine ability to provide equal opportunities for employment – implementing diverse hiring strategies, committing to equal pay, and providing a culture of belonging. If all these things come together, UK technology will be a far more superior industry.

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024