Why we need more Women in Tech!
In recognising the need for gender equality in the workplace, one cannot help but notice that the tech industry has long been stereotyped as a bit of a ‘boy’s club’. The unfortunate reality is that although there are certainly more women in tech, there is still not enough gender-diverse representation of this sector in the UK. Not only is this an alarming indication of how tech companies are failing to uphold equal treatment as specified in the Equality Act 2016, but a lack of diversity has also been shown to be detrimental to business development and growth. We take a look at the areas where tech has all but stagnated due to lack of gender diversity in the industry.
How Diverse is the Tech Industry in the UK?
It’s no secret that gender inequality in the workplace is still widespread across multiple sectors in the UK, and unfortunately the tech industry is not exempt from this historical exclusion of women.
In a recent study by Hired and published in the Financial Times, researchers found that women working in tech industries earned 9 percent less than their male counterparts. This gap is equivalent to a median of £5000 per year, making it the widest pay gap across four western tech hubs, including the US.
Statistics published in Computer Business Review, show that a shocking 18 percent of companies within London’s tech community have no women at board room level, and 48 percent of tech businesses see women hold less than a quarter of senior management roles.
However, the good news is that a fifth of tech firms in the UK are run by women, meaning one in 5 tech companies have women at managerial level. That being said, there is still a lack of gender diversity in the industry, and this restricts the endless supply of possibilities for tech companies who seek to reach and appeal to a wider consumer demographic.
What Organisations can do to promote Gender Diversity
In recent years, many businesses have been pressed to revaluate their practices to promote gender equality and diversity, with even the government vowing to implement legislation that requires companies to be transparent regarding salaries paid towards women in comparison to those of their male counterparts. Whilst lots of headway has been made in regards to promoting gender equality in tech industries, there is more that organisations could be doing to eradicate gender bias and stereotypical misconceptions completely!
Annie Moss-Quate, Founder of Leeds-based She Does Digital, believes that there needs to be a more collaborative effort when it comes to fostering a more inclusive culture within tech industries. “Women are making a huge contribution to the tech industry, so it is important that companies address and tackle the gender pay gap to ensure that it is beneficial for women currently working in the sector and encourages more to join,” she told Tech City News.
Ghela Boskovich, Founder of FemTechGlobal, a community working towards inclusion and diversity, suggests that blind recruiting could be the key to implementing a more equal hiring strategy, saying, “By removing gender markers like name, and bias prompts like candidate address and educational institution, and only reviewing candidate skill set, experience, and results, we can change the composition of the talent pool being reviewed for a position.”
Geoff Pearce, Vice President at NGA Human Resources, said he believed the gap was slowly narrowing, but noted that greater efforts are necessary to bring about true equality. “Current research estimates it will take half a century for the UK to eradicate the gender pay gap. We cannot wait a whole generation for this to happen, so companies must take decisive action now, if the want to contribute to a more equal society.”
More Women = Tech Gadget Innovation
In a recent article published by the BBC, three experts in tech industries share their views of how apps might change if there were more women in tech:
- Women would not be an afterthought in product development: For many years car safety failed to take female anatomy into account, to the point where female-sized crash test dummies were only enforced in the US in 2011. This is a clear-cut example of how product development is restricted due to lack of diversity. "If there were more women working in bots and Artificial Intelligence, women wouldn't be an afterthought when building new technology,” says Kriti Sharma, Global Director and Product Manager at Sage. "Early voice recognition software didn't always recognise female voices, because none of the developers had been female, and no one thought to test out the technology on women. Artificial Intelligence learns like babies do: it picks up data and knowledge from the world around it. So if that world is all male, it's going to have a very limited sphere of knowledge indeed.” What’s more is that a woman’s intelligence and need for practicality would be prioritised over the stereotype that women are only in need of ‘pretty things’. "New laptops and phones aimed at women would focus on technical specifications and features rather than on being pink,” says Suw Charman-Anderson, Founder of Ada Lovelace Day.
- More gender neutral bots: Ever notice how female voice bots often fall into gender stereotyped roles? This would be likely to change if there were more women contributing towards the conceptualisation and development of such software. "There would be more of a gender mix in AI voices - dutiful personal assistants wouldn't be largely female (Siri at launch, Cortana, Alexa) and advanced humanoid robots wouldn't be mostly male (SoftBank's robot companion NAO and, going more retro, R2D2 and Hal 9000),” advises Kriti.
- Menstruation moderation would not equate to desired impregnation: Although modern science has pointed to a number of physiological reasons (such as stress, fluctuating weight and polycystic syndrome) other than pregnancy as to why a woman’s monthly cycle may be irregular, health apps don’t seem to have adequately clocked on the fact. "If there were more women in tech, health apps wouldn't forget that women have periods, and period tracking apps wouldn't focus almost exclusively on planning for pregnancy,” says Suw.
- Women’s health would not be placed on the back burner: "We would also see healthcare technology aimed specifically at female aspects of physiology,” says Naomi Climer, Outgoing President of the Institution of Engineering and Technology. “Gone would be the days of vast numbers of women having appalling, quality-of-life affecting health issues and being told it's 'one of those things'!”
- Increased crack down on online abuse and hate speech: Facebook and other social media platforms have often been criticised for their failure to adequately censure hate speech and online bullying directed at women and other minorities. Su maintains that this would change if there were more women moderators, saying, "Social networks wouldn't tolerate abuse and better moderation and curation would make the comment sections on news articles much more welcoming.”
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