16 Jan Women in IT: 7 ways to close the gender gap
It is widely recognised that there is still strong under-representation of women in IT. While this gender imbalance has improved over the years, there is still a long way to go. According to Women in Tech, only 1 in 6 tech specialists in the UK are women, only 1 in 10 are leaders and worse still, female representation in the tech sector has stagnated over the last 10 years.
There are substantial economic benefits to be gained for the UK by encouraging more women to work in IT. McKinsey suggests that bridging the UK gender gap has the potential to add £150 billion to GDP forecasts for 2025, and could translate into 840,000 additional female employees.
In this blog post, I explore what can be done to close the gender imbalance gap in the IT workplace and how we can contribute from all angles to encourage more women to pursue a career in this industry of endless opportunities.
1. IT job roles & apprenticeships targeted specifically to women
Historically, I think there have been barriers to women pursuing a career in IT, as traditionally this has been perceived as a job option for men. However, if employers advertise jobs/apprenticeships specifically targeted to women, we are likely to see an increase in female applications, as they will know they fit the right criteria, as opposed to reluctantly thinking, “It’s a man’s job, I won’t bother applying for that”.
2. Active encouragement and sponsorship from male IT leaders
I’m very fortunate to have great leadership from my managers who are both men who actively encourage women to move into senior management and leadership roles. The importance of senior male leaders sponsoring and supporting up and coming female talent in the IT sector is crucial as their influence can make a huge difference to other industry professionals.
3. Mentoring and training programs delivered by women currently working in IT
Women who currently work in the IT sector can act as role models for other women. By actively engaging with them through training, mentoring and building a networking community, they are more likely to feel encouraged and inspired by their female counterparts to pursue IT as a chosen career, whether that be technical, sales or business development. I myself am a mentor for two female colleagues at Infinigate whereby I offer them any ad-hoc support or guidance they may require as well as share my own experiences to help them develop in their roles.
4. More female IT teachers in schools and further education
When my daughter was at primary school, she had a fantastic female ICT teacher, who encouraged the children to explore tech as a career option. As a result, she was inspired to become a Digital Leader at the school where she was handed responsibilities such as developing child-friendly IT programs and training some of the younger children on how to use computers and be internet safe. Kids these days are pretty tech-savvy and encouraging them to think about IT as a chosen career from early on is key.
5. Flexible working hours and other family-friendly incentives offered by employers
There are many women in senior management roles across all industries, not just IT, who are also mothers to young children and an employers’ decision to offer flexible working hours can be a deal breaker for them when accepting a new position. Therefore, if we were to see more IT employers offer flexible working hours as well as benefits such as childcare vouchers to show they support family life, more women with children will feel incentivised to work for these types of companies.
6. More coverage and PR around the opportunities for women in IT
A career in technology is very rewarding and varied as there are many industries and sectors that IT relates to, whether that be working for a vendor, the government or a corporate company. IT also relates to business and is a key working part to maximising any companies’ performance; the opportunities are endless. The more media coverage and PR there is around this, the more women will understand the potential they can reach down a career path in IT.
7. Strict company policies against sexist behaviour in the workplace
Unfortunately, I have both witnessed and experienced sexism in the workplace; this can be anything from subtle, patronising comments to being turned down for a promotion or job role just because I am female. In a previous role, I was even asked to take a pay cut because I have a child and required flexible working hours! This sort of discriminatory behaviour is what drives women to quit their careers in IT and employers must do more by taking stricter action against sexism in the workplace to ensure this does not continue to occur.