There aren’t enough women in tech, this is something we’ve been all too aware of for years. It’s a worrying trend, as the growth rate of digital jobs is more than double that of non-digital roles. If we’re not supporting our young women into tech-focused careers, we’re effectively excluding them from a large proportion of the job market.
According to a recent study by PwC, only 23% of those working in STEM industries are female. It starts in our school systems — only 27% of girls at GCSE level said they would consider a career in technology, compared to 62% of boys. Of those, only 3% said tech was their first choice. Why? Because a career in technology isn’t presented to them as an option.
It’s time we made women in tech a priority. PwC agree, and have joined forces with 18 powerful organisations across a range of sectors to form the Tech She Can Charter. But what does this mean for small businesses? And how can we do our bit to ensure a more diverse, tech-focused workforce?
What is the Tech She Can Charter?
The Tech She Can Charter is a commitment by its member organisations to get more women into tech. They’re tackling the issue at its roots by engaging 9000 schools across the UK to educate and inspire pupils and teachers about careers in technology. They’re also championing their female staff, encouraging them to engage with the younger generations and establish themselves as role models.
In addition, the companies involved in the Charter will ensure inclusive access to technology roles through their recruitment drives and focus on company culture. This includes building the right environment to offer formal work experience programmes and internships to more young women.
Why is it important?
Women make up 50% of the population. Excluding them from the fastest growing industry in the world not only means that a high percentage of women could find themselves without work, it also results in a total bias in the output of technology. Algorithms that aren’t representative of the whole population, skills needs that aren’t met, and an imbalance in the work we’re able to produce are just a few issues that could result from a lack of diversity in our workforces.
How can small businesses get involved?
If gender diversity isn’t yet a key consideration in your business, why not? What more can you do to change the status quo? How can this switch in focus improve your product or service? What benefit will a more diverse team have for your company culture?
You don’t have to be a multi-billion pound business to make a difference. There are many ways you can get involved in this initiative on a local level. Get your local newspapers involved, join forces with other like-minded businesses in your area and let everyone know you’re standing for change.
You can go even further by arranging regular meetings to share best practises between local businesses, and record your findings on your blog and social platforms. You’ll soon find your company culture transform to one of openness and inclusivity, which in turn will attract more talent to your business.
This also applies on an individual level. Talk to your daughters, tell them about the countless opportunities in an industry that is always changing. Excite their curiosity. Go even further by enrolling your children’s teachers in the mission and organising talks at their schools. This is a great opportunity to champion the women you already have working in your organisation by encouraging them to become mentors or give talks at local schools.
Attract, recruit, retain
It’s not enough to simply say we’re gender inclusive, we need to walk our talk across all aspects of our organisations. This means creating an environment women would feel comfortable working within.
Pay attention to your hiring strategy, including how job adverts are worded. According to social scientists at The University of Waterloo and Duke University, there are a whole list of verbs and adjectives that are female or masculine-coded. They found job ads in male-dominated fields (like many tech-focused jobs) tended to use masculine-coded words such as “competitive” and “dominate”. Follow-up research confirmed these words alienated women and made them less inclined to apply.
Interestingly, the Women’s College Coalition found that men apply for jobs when they meet 60% of the criteria, while women wait until they feel they meet 100%. We can therefore afford to lean more towards female-coded words without alienating male candidates, whereas masculine language is more likely to prevent women from even considering the role.
Need a helping hand? Check out this gender decoder for job ads.
The demand for diverse technology skills is already reaching peak levels. Be at the forefront of innovation by focussing on building a diverse and inclusive team of tech talent.
Supporting women in tech has long been a passion of mine and is something that I hope to keep front and centre as I continue to develop and grow Bright Dials. If it’s something you’re passionate about too, I’d love to hear from you. Get in touch or follow us on Twitter.