Why driving more diversity in tech means more than mere lip service

Each year, the 26th August marks Women’s Equality Day. Whilst it is a significant day for gender equality, it also allows for women in business to take stock of all the progress we have made in the world of work, and consider how far we have to go.

The gender gap persists, however it is felt most keenly in STEM careers and in places like Silicon Valley.  A survey in September 2018 found that a wide gender diversity gap paled into incomparison with a huge equity gap.  Software company Carta analyzed more than 6,000 companies, 180,000 employees and 15,000 founders, and found that overall, men own 91 percent of employee and founder equity in Silicon Valley, leaving women a scant 9 percent.

Leading women who have chosen this career path for themselves took time out to explain what actions they believe are needed to make the talk of diversity and representation more than mere lip service.

 

Encouraging the next generation

Connie Stack, Chief Strategy Officer at Digital Guardian believes the key to addressing many of society’s greatest challenges is also the key to improving the tech gender gap.  She explains:

“Education, particularly in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). Recent research from Microsoft and KRC Research found that confidence in STEM wanes as girls get older, but interest can be recovered when subjects are related to real-word people and problems, tapping into girls’ desire to be creative and make a difference in the world.”

 

Getting more women into leadership

Too often the technology industry is tarred with the ‘lack of diversity’ brush, but thanks to mentoring initiatives, coding workshops and more women in leadership roles, we are starting to shake up the industry.

As Lucie Sadler, Head of Content at Hyve Managed Hosting enthuses, there is still a long way to go.

“As women working in tech we must do all that we can to encourage diversity and equality in the workplace and to educate our peers,” she explains.

As a sector devoted to improvement and innovation, the technology industry should be at the forefront of positive change when it comes to gender equality.  It’s therefore surprising – and sadly ironic – that the gender gap in Silicon Valley is still a significant cause for concern.  Estee Woods, Director of Public Sector & Public Safety Marketing at Cradlepoint describes:

“According to Silicon Valley Bank’s 2019 Women in Technology Leadership report, just 56% of startups have at least one woman in an executive position, and 60% admit they have no women on their board of directors.

The continued lack of gender parity across all industries is why initiatives such as Women’s Equality Day are so important.  They provide a time to pause and see how far we have come – to celebrate the trailblazers of gender equality and women’s rights — but they are also a time to see just how far we have left to go.  I encourage everyone to celebrate the strong women in their lives, personally and professionally, and to empower the women in their organisations. Today, I encourage women in tech to own their voices, to value their intellect and skills, and to take an active role in their careers and organisations.”

 

Being passionate about your career choice

It’s been 99 years since women were allowed the same rights as men to vote, and so much has continued to evolve and change in that time. Back in 1920, women had to really fight for equality, but today, women are able to pursue what they are passionate about in life, regardless of what field.

However, it’s still not all completely smooth sailing. Amber Johanson, VP, Global Pre-Sales Engineering at Zerto, insists:

“There are still challenges and obstacles that arise for women, particularly in a field as male-driven as technology. In my first leadership role, I found that if I raised my voice, I was called emotional. It seems ridiculous, but I quickly realised that because of my gender, I was held to a higher standard.

The gender gap is still visible today, but we will continue working to close it. The best advice I can share to other women who are considering a job in a field that is male-dominated is this: If it’s your passion, pursue it. Set the expectation of being treated as an equal and don’t accept anything less.”

Karina Marks, Data Science Consultant, Mango Solutions agrees with this sentiment. She explains:

“Despite working with a large number of female data scientists, I still often find myself looking around me in a meeting and noticing that I am the only female. I don’t consider this as a disadvantage, though, because regardless of my gender, I have faith in my own abilities and what I can achieve. Passion and persistence has really paid off, and I am incredibly lucky that the company I work for has helped support my journey, encouraging me to develop my skills and gain a deeper understanding of the analytics industry. The advice I’d give to young women who are interested in developing a career in the tech – and more specifically data science and advanced analytics – industry, is: Invest in continuous development and learning, share your work, build your community, and keep a sharp focus on value.”

 

Developing the right skills 

Shilpa Narsikar, Senior Engineering Manager at WhiteHat Security, reasons that certain traits are important for women to have in a career in technology.

“Empathy is often overlooked in fast-paced businesses where individuals just want to get ahead at any cost. A recent study found that 87% of CEOs see a direct link between workplace empathy and business performance, productivity, retention and general business health. In short, promoting empathy-either as an individual or as a company-actually aids in career and business success. Empathy is an ability that all professionals regardless of gender, background or industry, should prioritise and work on to achieve success.” 

 

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