Diversity, equality and inclusion are three codes that the tech industry is yet to crack. Currently, just 17% of tech roles are filled by women, with the sector suffering a lack of representation from hard to reach groups and communities, including different races, sexualities and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Last year we hosted our ‘Gender Balance in Tech’ (GBiT) event in partnership with the University of Salford, which comprised of professionals and innovators from the Manchester Airport Group (MAG), BBC, Siemens, Women in the Law UK and Think Money Group.
The discussion panel concluded that gender imbalance in the tech industry is affecting most UK businesses, with all parties in unanimous agreement that diversity is a present-day issue and that if we don’t make big changes today and work to close the gap, then UK PLC will decline from a dip in productivity, profits and commercial ability.
Getting Technical - Differences in the Gender Pay Gap
A report from Wired last year highlights the big tech companies in the UK and how what they’ve achieved for wage clarity.
Meanwhile, in America, job site Glassdoor reported on the problems in its gender pay gap report. As the latter notes:
“With global attention on the gender pay gap over the past three years, has progress been made to close the gap? This research examines how gender pay gaps have changed in the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Australia since our initial study in 2016. The 2019 study offers new gender pay gap data on Canada, the Netherlands, and Singapore and leverages hundreds of thousands of salary reports.”
That’s an outlook not helped by Wired’s April 2019 report, as it confirmed: “Apple’s figures from last year revealed that women earned a median of 76p for every £1 men earned.”
As global issue it is essential to address longstanding industry inequality. Clearly, enough isn’t being done to challenge this issue. Although tech companies are often thought of as progressive places to work, the industry needs to address the ongoing issues of wage inequality.
How to Address Disparity
The issue may seem unsurmountable but organisations can take practical steps with regards to talent attraction, to start addressing the issue:
- Unconscious bias
Implementing unconscious bias training is one effective solution to improving the pipeline of talent and boosting diversity. This popular approach reduces natural bias and prejudice of people by highlighting individual skill sets and expertise within the candidate recruitment process and removing any identifier of the person’s age, race, sex, location or background.
- Address your company’s hiring culture and recruitment practices
At the GBiT event Chris Joynson, talent & resourcing partner at MAG explained that in the industry technology has evolved quicker than commerce and many businesses still expect certain standards.
“All organisations want superstars and not enough are taking chances on excellent candidates with plenty of ability and will, who can be taught the required technical skills. There are lots of capable and unemployed developers, for example, who are being overlooked by organisations. At MAG, certain departments still look for candidate backgrounds, for example, finance requires its team to have experience in one of the ‘Big Four’ accountancy firms; something we’re working to address.”
Implementing company-wide culture changes such as these, will set the standard of what tech companies can be doing to address and stamp put the issue of gender inequality.
At GBiT attendees were divided in the effectiveness of quotas and whether there is a need to legislate to deliver effective change. There was a feeling that introducing quotas would bring the impression that those from underrepresented groups, females within male-dominated sectors, were only being employed because of their gender and not their skillset and ability.
Diane Kennedy, vice president of strategy, architecture and planning at BP explained that change within large organisations like BP simply wouldn’t happen unless it was a requirement and something that staff were held accountable for.
“My quota is to increase diversity within my own team to 25% by 2022. Three years ago, this figure stood at 11% and I’ve worked hard to reach 18% today. There are hundreds of ongoing initiatives within BP to challenge and boost diversity because there isn’t a one-size-fits-all. Working with schools at primary school through to university age, apprenticeships, return to work programmes and flexible working are some initiatives that have proven really successful.
We also have a top-down policy to drive behavioural change, with inclusion now one of the top five priorities of BP’s chief executive. This shows how important creating an inclusive environment is and even goes as far as saying that the annual bonus you receive will be impacted on how effective the cultural change is within your team and achieving its quotas.”
Encouraging Women to Start Up in Tech
It is evident that diversity fosters greater success and profitability and it is an issue that needs addressing today and the right strategies putting into place to overcome both the short and long-term industry needs.
At GBiT MBE Leanne Cooke, CEO and founder of Evolve-IT Consultants examined gender bias and how the root of the problem begins at birth.
“Boys are more inclined to be interested in STEM subjects because they tend to grow up with scientific toys, whereas girls are given kitchens and pink things,” explains Leanne. “As soon as they reach primary school, they already have an awareness of gender bias because of the toys they’ve grown up with and these perceptions are rarely challenged by their teachers.”
“We need to change the mentality of young people to embrace technical interests and aspirations, which requires more input from teachers. Young people learn about IT and technology in schools, but they don’t see what careers are available beyond the games and devices.”
However, whilst apprenticeships are great and more must be done to promote the benefits to young people, their parents and businesses, there’s still the immediate problem of the present-day skills gap. Several techniques can be applied quickly and easily by tech businesses to encourage greater diversity within the workplace.
- Transferable skills
One of the ways solve this is to focus less on experience and look for people with the right transferable skills and a desire to learn.
“The last two people I’ve recruited got the job based on their attitude and will, and they’ve been the best new recruits that I’ve had in a long time.” MBE Leanne Cooke, CEO and founder of Evolve-IT Consultants
- Mentoring and role modelling
Provide nurturing programmes to get women engaged with the tech industry at an early age. The concept of ‘seeing is believing’ is extremely powerful, with studies showing that female students are more likely to choose particular careers when they’re exposed to situations and scenarios where they can imagine themselves in their shoes.
By providing relatable role models to the younger generation to look up to, and take inspiration from, organisations can break down barriers and encourage more women into the field; whilst also providing a positive platform to encourage career transitioning from females already working in other sectors.
- Advertising appropriately
The way businesses phrase job specs should aim to encourage inclusivity click here to access Glassdoor’s guide to removing gender bias from job descriptions. A number of excellent examples that BP use to attract applicants from underrepresented groups included simple and more concise CVs and changing the language used to ensure it is not gender biased. In addition, don’t let age be a barrier—the business world should encourage all ages to apply for tech roles.
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Contributors: This article was written by Bridge Bytes in partnership with Peninsula Group