The global focus on technology and sheer success of the sector has long been recognized.
However, with the rising prominence of AI and its potential to reshape the way we live, the industry’s opportunity for economic prosperity has become even more apparent in this past year.
The AI job creation versus displacement narrative has been widely debated this past year but we have arrived at a general consensus that the industry is positioned for exponential growth.
Despite this, somehow gender disparity persists as a glaring issue.
Women constitute less than a third of individuals in tech-related jobs in Europe.
This gender imbalance is even more pronounced in disruptive technologies, with estimates indicating that women make up only 26% of AI jobs globally, 15% in cloud computing, and 12% in data-related roles.
To put it simply, there is a noticeable lack of women both currently working in technology and considering a career in the field. This challenge is a longstanding one and the industry needs to do better.
These barriers persist beyond entry into the sector. Women often face discrimination and harassment, as well as a lack of mentorship, sponsorship and additional support when returning to work after maternity leave.
This can in turn stand in the way of career progression. And the more senior the role, the more under-represented women are in tech, with only 14% holding leadership positions. It should therefore come as no surprise that 57% of women see a lack of role models as an obstacle to entering the industry.
The gender pay gap in tech and beyond
Pay parity for women is a problem which extends beyond technology. According to recent Eurostat figures, women in the European Union (EU) aren’t set for equal pay until 2086.
While the introduction of gender pay reporting at many larger organizations has, in some way, enabled the gap to narrow, there is clearly far more to be done.
Equal and fair pay should be standard practice as it is critical in demonstrating how valuable people are to an organization.
Businesses must support promotions and pay transparency through company policy, as well as conduct pay equity audits to identify and resolve discrepancies at all levels and encourage salary negotiations.
The growing tech skills gap
Amidst the ongoing struggles associated with gender imbalance, the tech talent shortage has reached a critical juncture globally.
In 2023, more than half of organizations experienced a tech skills shortage within the previous six years which consistently hindered their progress.
Although 150 million new tech jobs will be created over the next five years, McKinsey predicts a tech talent gap of 1.4 million to 3.9 million in Europe by 2027.
These numbers are extremely concerning and make the case for redressing the gender imbalance even stronger, as it can help solve two pressing issues at once.
Not only that, United Nations’ research shows that employing more women has significant economic benefits and increases organizational effectiveness and growth.
Businesses that fail to genuinely integrate diversity within their ranks risk disadvantaging themselves.
Numerous studies have shown that gender balanced companies outperform their less diverse counterparts financially.
It is time to take action
What we need now is collective responsibility and commitment at an organizational level.
This means investing in – and providing – education, as well as creating new opportunities and offering ongoing support to both current professionals and the next generation.
Businesses need to reconsider their hiring strategies and approach to nurturing female talent, recognizing the need for adaptability, at different stages in their careers.
Empowering and supporting women in the tech industry requires an amplification of female voices and an increase in women holding leadership positions.
This will give women working in tech strong role models to follow, which in turn fosters a culture of inclusivity – which is absolutely crucial.
Ultimately, alongside ensuring equal pay and promotion opportunities, businesses should prioritize ongoing training and personal development to encourage a new generation of leaders and change agents.
The influence of change agents, irrespective of gender, should not be underestimated.
Enlisting male allies as change agents can effectively challenge harmful stereotypes, empowering women and contributing significantly to creating a more equitable and inclusive environment.
Shifting focus towards non-profit driven tasks, such as mentorship, is also integral to organizational success.
We also need to do a lot more to actively boost the talent pipeline for the next generation of women pursuing careers in tech and leadership in the field.
Starting as early as higher education, it’s important that we showcase the broad range of skills that are valued within the tech sector beyond STEM subjects and coding
My own education isn’t in STEM, but having studied Operations and Marketing Management, I bring valuable skills to the table. By bringing these journeys to life for potential talent, we build a more comprehensive understanding of the myriad of positions available within the tech landscape.
One solution lies in diversifying the avenues through which companies seek talent, especially at the entry level – whether it be through university partnerships, apprenticeships, or strategic recruitment initiatives.
This not only promotes diversity but also presents additional opportunities for development during the early stages of one’s career.
Having a strategic focus on early-stage development ensures a continuous and diverse influx of talent into the tech sector, fostering innovation and resilience in the field.
How to make a positive change
Empowering the next generation and nurturing their potential is a shared responsibility.
Authenticity is the greatest foundational step for strong leaders, but women are too often at a disadvantage when it comes to displaying their true authentic selves in the workplace.
We can change this.
The technology industry is one in which we have the ability to make a significant and far-reaching change, it is a sector of innovation and moon shots that is really still in its infancy.
Addressing the gender imbalance requires collaborative and dedicated efforts if we are to realize positive change. The road ahead is long, but essential for the tech industry to realize its full potential.
Hence, businesses and the industry at large must double down on efforts to attract, support, retain, and empower women across all levels and age groups.
The journey may be challenging, but the benefits are invaluable.
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