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Professional services firm PwC discovered in late 2017 while polling 2,000 students, that 78% of them couldn’t name a famous female working in tech. A report by Information is Beautiful revealed that white workers hold 60% of the current technical roles in the industry and black workers hold a minuscule 1-2%.
Further sources found, in 2016, that 26% of Microsoft’s employees were female; 30% of YouTube’s were female. Nvidia’s female population is a very small 16%. 16% also represents the current number of female undergraduates in the UK studying a degree related to technology or engineering.
PwC additionally – perhaps more worryingly – found that only 3% of females say a career in tech is their first choice. But why aren’t there more women in tech jobs?
The space for men and women to lead innovative tech businesses exists. Workplaces are just not inspiring enough young women to strive towards these spaces.
Around 16% of female students receive advice to pursue a career in technology and 33% of males.
And, of course, while 78% can’t name a famous female techy, we all know of Steve Jobs, Tim Cook, Sundar Pichai, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos. All of them male. Most of them white.
So it’s unsurprising that males turn to tech for a career when an abundance of successful men inhabit the industry. It’s also unsurprising that women remain reluctant to enter an industry in which most of their peers will be men.
So, what should tech companies do to promote diversity?
Technology companies want to improve the world. To automate mundane tasks, make life safer, healthier, more interesting. Tech companies must engage with education systems to teach students at a young age that technology is helping lives. By building skills such as IT at a young school age, tech companies can level the playing field of future talent pipelines and begin to debug the white-male-dominated industry.
Interestingly, the UK’s Office for National Statistics found in 2016 that 98.9% of women aged 16-44 had used the internet in the last three months during the time of their research. The number of men was slightly lower, 98.6%. Since women use technology more than men, their views and ideas about technology need increased representation in the design and implementation processes.
Think apprenticeships and industry placements. Tech firms must market to women and ethnic minorities that their ideas, their perspectives and their persons are valuable to the growth of all sectors in the industry.
Inviting women to speak at universities, for example, would enable students to ask questions about the careers they want to pursue.
Mercer found (in a study of 66,000 tech employees) that men in tech jobs in the UK earn around 25% more money than women. The average gap in the UK across all industries is 18%. Their analysis discovered that once junior employees become mid-level professionals, men hold around 75% of the roles (up from 51%).
However, men and women ranked equally in terms of performance in the study. It’s clear that tech firms must do more to offer progression to female employees who are already working in technology jobs, including equal pay and equal promotion opportunities.
By closing the pay and progression gap, women will obviously find jobs in tech more appealing.
But businesses need to do more to find candidates who are female and/or from ethnic minority backgrounds. Microsoft is rewarding its hiring managers for successfully increasing the diversity of its workforce.
Inclusion is an issue for everyone to tackle. A diverse workforce is, after all, more likely to identify bugs and blind spots in a user’s experience of a product. Companies must invest in marketing the hiring and success of their diverse workforce.
Tech companies have enormous platforms and forward-thinking customer communities. It’s time they let their diverse workers stand on these platforms and thrive.
*Anneka Burrett is Head of Digital Experience at BrightHR. Workingmums.co.uk is holding an employer roundtable on women in technology in early September, sponsored by Salesforce. A free white paper on the event will be published shortly afterwards. You can register for the white paper here.