The gender balance within the tech industry remains extremely skewed and this starts at the very top. Female representation within functional tech leadership is incredibly low, with women only accounting for around a fifth of senior roles. While this has begun to change, that change is incredibly slow and in drastic need of improvement. The problem is, while there are so few women in roles such as chief technology officer (CTO) and chief information officer (CIO), it can be harder to recruit more women throughout the organisation. An improved gender balance among C-level roles is better for businesses and can unlock consumer spending and give companies a competitive edge.
Without addressing the gender balance, tech organisations are going to be left behind. After all, women control a huge percentage of annual consumer spend, a figure that will only increase further as more women enter the workforce. As technology evolves, if companies don’t have diverse leadership, they will lose ground to competitors in terms of their product and service offerings and also their ability to attract women to work for them. To make a difference and to get female talent at the top, tech businesses need to think of hiring in a less conventional way, focusing on internal talent development, creating hybrid roles, improving inclusivity and casting a wider net when recruiting.
The Importance of Overcoming Stereotypes
Women in tech often cite gender bias as a barrier to promotion. They are outnumbered by men both in senior leadership roles and in meetings. With such a lack of representation across the business, it can be harder for hiring panels to imagine a woman in a senior leadership role. The problem is that this mindset only reinforces the issue and creates a company culture that is intrinsically biased. With a gender-biased culture, there are fewer mentorship and sponsorship opportunities for female talent and their promotion path becomes uncertain.
Mentorship and sponsorship are fundamental ways that tech businesses can start to make a difference. What’s more, sponsors don’t have to be internal. Businesses should consider joining women in tech industry groups that focus on helping women reach the c-suite and support the next generation of leaders. While this won’t immediately help to appoint more women internally, by celebrating tech leaders across the field, businesses can start to prompt inclusive mindsets and behaviours and make a change to corporate culture.
Encouraging Women Before They Reach the Workplace
While organisations can easily create diversity targets for technical roles, this is no use when there is a huge gender disparity for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects within the education system. This is why it’s vital for talent development to begin before women reach the workplace. While employers may think this is out of their hands, every tech company has the opportunity to make a difference. Sending female tech leaders into schools and universities and sponsoring schemes to promote tech careers to female students can make a huge difference. Moreover, demonstrating the career pathways that could become available, the roles they could have and the associated benefits can all help to encourage future talent.
Growing Talent Internally
As well as struggling when it comes to initial recruitment, women also face additional barriers when it comes to promotion. There’s often a distinct lack of clear career paths, coaching and mentors within many companies. It comes back to the issue that, without women having a seat in the boardroom, they don’t find the opportunities they need to get there. It’s quite a vicious circle. However, it’s one that every business can start to change.
To sponsor female talent into tech leadership pathways, organisations need to find ways to build confidence among female candidates. Women often undervalue their skills and overlook themselves for promotion, even when they are ideal for the role. By providing coaching, women can develop self-belief early on in their careers and be ready for senior tech roles as and when they become available.
Creating New Opportunities
Traditional roles within technology organisations are starting to evolve. This means that instead of having leadership roles which are entirely technology focused, they now also include a transformative and strategic responsibility. These new roles require excellent collaborative and communication skills and empathy for customers, colleagues and stakeholders, all areas that women are known to excel in.
However, as well as creating the right roles, how they are advertised can make a significant difference. Job advertisements often contain unconscious bias, outdated terminology and experience requirements that aren’t easily translatable. If candidates, especially women lacking in the necessary confidence, don’t think they tick every box, they may well be discouraged from applying. To help avoid this, advertisements should include a full specification that details both the technical and soft skills that are fundamental to the role. Then, when it comes to hiring, it’s important to look at future potential as well as past performance and experience.
In addition, when it comes to hiring, it’s worth casting the net wide. People don’t need to always be in the same office, city or even country to collaborate and contribute in the modern world. By casting the net wide and building a targeted search strategy, businesses are more likely to unearth experienced and valuable female tech talent.
How Your Company Can Make a Difference
Despite the more progressive and democratised landscape we all work in today, women still aren’t being given enough opportunities and the space they need to truly lead. While there is an undeniable gender disparity throughout the tech industry, the imbalance can be redressed by every business. By rethinking the recruitment process, offering sponsorship and mentorship opportunities, working to change company culture and creating an inclusive environment, you can start to attract female tech talent. Once the talent pipeline is open, flexible scheduling, equal pay and parental leave and a creative support structure can help keep it that way. And it’s not just a good thing for women. Women consistently show leadership traits, including humility, self-control and emotional awareness; they can drive innovation, create new business opportunities and spearhead inclusion initiatives, leading to increased revenue. It’s a win-win for everyone.