This week Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, said that the number of women in technology “is frankly disastrous in proportion… I think that is unfortunate”. There has been huge press coverage into the number of women in the industry recently, and a growing desire for change.
Not surprising, when three of the biggest global tech companies (all of whom have Headquarters in Ireland), have around 18-20% women making up their technical staff. The outrage seems just, but what has led to this significant lop-sidedness in the Status Quo, and what needs to be done to address it?
Issue: The number of women enrolling in technical courses after leaving school is, on the whole, significantly lower than men. In 2013, 76% of computer science undergraduate places in Ireland, were filled by men,
Therefore; women are outnumbered from the very start of the ladder. Those who do wish to pursue a tech career, are most likely to be, and remain to be, in a heavily male dominated environment. This in turn creates a more male culture, which may be unappealing for many young women entering the work force.
Solution: Introducing technical courses at any earlier age, will allow students to get a better insight into what a technical career will entail. It would seem that the diversity, career progression and impact that a tech career can bring, is not currently being advertised effectively enough.
In addition, employers need to make a conscious effort to ensure an appealing company culture, in order to draw the best possible talent from across the market.
Issue: The tech world has progressed hugely in the past few years, yet our perceptions of the workers seems to have stayed stagnant for quite some time. Technical roles are widely considered to be male territory, and often accompanied by some rather unflattering stereotypes.
Solution: Technology permeates into everything we do, across all industries, and is only gaining more momentum. There needs to be a PR revolution, in order to convey the diversity and endless opportunities that technical skill can bring. No trade is exempt of influence.
Issue: New US research shows that men are 40% more likely than women to get a business bank loan and only 7% of venture capital funding goes to women. A recent study at Harvard Business School had a man and woman deliver exactly the same business pitch, and found considerable preference were given to the men.
Solution: Institutions such as Enterprise Ireland (EI) are enabling female entrepreneurs to flourish, however, the number is still alarmingly low. In 2011, only 7 female led projects were support by EI. By 2012, this figure had risen to 23, a vast improvement, but still a long way to go. There needs to be a movement to encourage women to express their ideas, and the investment available to back them.
So where do we go from here?
There is slow but sure progress, but much more could be done to encourage and support women in the technical world. By establishing early exposure and education into the technology world, we may be able to re-address the balance. Business man and techy Bill Gates points out that:
“ Any country where half their population is not allowed to reach their full potential is not going to be competitive.”
This is not a movement to ensure inclusion for inclusions sake. Encouraging more women into the industry will bring a fresh new perspective, and allow the tech industry access to some great minds that they may currently be missing out on. By only largely utilizing half the population, you are only ever to going to reach half your potential.
Now is the time for change.