By Christie Day
Despite the efforts of some of the biggest global technology brands, there is still a huge disparity between the number of male and female workers. In the wider tech industry, just 17% of employees are women and, according to a recent study by Analytics Insight, only 30% of women are actively working in Data Science and other data-oriented jobs.
Even though there has been an increase in data-centric roles across the board, the research revealed around 10% of data teams do not actually have any female member in them. There are mountains of other well-documented statistics that point to why attracting more females into the tech industry remains an uphill struggle.
Worrying issues such as equal pay, was highlighted in a recent study by Mercer and showed around 78% of large organisations admitted to having a gender pay gap in tech. Even research into the proportion of women who work in data science, analytics and the wider tech sector has underlined critical areas for improvement, from a lack of females in senior positions to the segregation of women into clerical, non-technical or specialist roles.
Anyone working in the industry can see there is a gender diversity issue, but what and where is the solution? We certainly won’t find it by dwelling on the gloomy picture painted by the statistics. Yes, there is a significant gap. But where there is an opening, there is also opportunity. Fortunately, that attitude of positivity seems to be shared among the great and the good in the sector. Many leading tech organisations have established various policies and practices to put up a strong fight for gender parity.
Microsoft paved the way by making diversity and inclusion its ‘core priorities’ for several years. Evidently, its latest diversity data shows a rise in the number of females employed in its global workforce, with more women working in both technical and leadership roles.
Companies such as Oracle have its own Women in Technology group to recognise the accomplishments of females throughout the industry and encourage them to mentor other women as they enter technology careers. Lenovo also champions gender diversity and ‘is committed to helping women thrive’ in the company. Its latest published figures showed that roughly 34% of its workforce and 33% of its executive leadership team is female and the appointment of a Chief Diversity Officer aims to help them improve further.
Small increases equal slow progress. It is vital that companies from across the sector to continue to address the reasons why there are a lack of women. Increasing the awareness of technical roles, highlighting achievements from female leaders and promoting flexibility for career-changers are just some of the steps already being taken to speed up progress.
This is a challenge highlighted by a recent government announcement, declaring that the tech sector will benefit from a £18.5 million cash injection to “drive up skills in AI and data science and support more adults to progress in their careers or find new employment.” The investment will give people the opportunity to retrain and become experts in data science and AI, with funding for new degree and Masters conversion courses and scholarships at UK academic institutions over the next three years.
Shortly after the announcement, Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright underlined the importance of encouraging diversity in the technology workforce: “Everyone, regardless of their background, should have the opportunity to build a successful career in our world-leading tech sector. Through these new AI and Data Conversion courses and our modern Industrial Strategy, we are committed to working with the tech sector and academia to develop and maintain the best AI workforce in the world.”
One of the aims of our WIB Expo event, which takes place in 16-18 October in Farnborough, is to inspire and support women looking to start or further their careers in this highly successful sector. There will be a strong focus on data-oriented roles and the wider tech sector with a dedicated Women in Tech zone, supported by industry leaders such as Lenovo, Microsoft and Oracle.
The Tech Seminar Theatre will feature inspirational speakers addressing critical issues that impact women in the industry – from the gender pay gap and the lack of females in senior roles to tackling the barriers affecting career progression. The WIB Expo event presents a positive collaborative platform for both visitors and exhibitors, bringing together leading global technology companies, women exploring career opportunities in the sector and business owners seeking the latest technology solutions.