What companies can do to address the gender imbalance for women in Tech

by Heat Recruitment

The growing skills shortage in the British tech sector is no secret. With two-thirds of CEO’s in the UK struggling to hire people with digital skills, it’s becoming clear that the IT industry has reached a crossroads in its progression. As concerns continue to rise in the face of an uncertain Brexit, plugging the skills gap will be critical in ensuring our country remains at the forefront of technological innovation.

Regrettably, a sector begging for bright sparks to take the reins in the fourth industrial revolution has so far been stifled by a male-dominated workforce; it has been hindered by the unconscious bias that has become cemented within workplaces over the years. Today, when most people think of a tech specialist, they think of a man – and while pop culture has done it’s best to provide young women with female role models who are masters of technology, the truth is a lot less glamorous.

At present, only 15% of employees in STEM fields are women. Unfortunately, the future looks just as bleak, with women only making up 16% of STEM undergraduates. Should things continue as they have, only 5% of these undergraduates will go on to take up leadership positions in IT.

In truth, addressing the gender imbalance is only the first half of the battle. The second is taking appropriate action to diversify the profession once and for all.

Promote flexible working

According to research from the Anita Borg institute, female IT employees are much more likely to leave their company than their male co-workers because of inflexible working arrangements. Of course, this is hardly surprising: for too long, women have been forced to choose between their careers and raising a family due to the archaic belief that the two are incompatible.

Thanks to advances in digital technology, remote and flexible working patterns have become commonplace within a number of industries. Within the field of IT, promoting flexible working opportunities for those who may not be able to fit into a rigid 9-5 structure should not impact on the quality of work or levels of productivity: it simply gives new parents (along with carers) the chance to progress their career and be part of a growing company without the need to sacrifice their personal commitments.

If a business is looking to address the gender balance in their business, introducing flexible working, part-time roles and enhanced maternity leave is a great place to begin.

Rethink recruitment strategies

If a business is only just starting to take the steps towards rebalancing their gender diversity, it can often be difficult to attract female talent into an IT position. Nobody wants to be the first to dip their toes in the water, and a large male team can appear daunting to potential hires.

Soon, technology companies find themselves in a Catch-22 situation: their workforce undoubtedly needs diversifying, but the lack of women deters would-be female candidates from applying for the role. In fact, many women see the low number of females in tech sector roles and choose to enter other industries altogether.

If we are to break the cycle, we must rethink how we attract candidates to begin with. This isn’t just about updating a job ad to ensure the language is welcoming to all applicants, though this may be your first step. It’s about changing the attitude within the business in order to promote an inclusive culture through the employer brand.

Naturally, this will take time – the business must start to actively involve itself in industry events; it must show itself as a diverse employer by proving to the public that it is taking steps to resolve the gender imbalance within the tech sector.

For a quick win, IT firms would do well to introduce female senior management, or alternatively a female hiring manager, a business shows the prospective hire that progression and leadership options are not off the table at this business. Of course, female IT leaders can only be present in interviews and the hiring process on a whole if they are promoted in the first place.

If progress is to be made in rebalancing the IT workspace, female leadership will be essential. Women in leading roles bring not just a fresh vision, but also act as role models for the next generation of female tech superstars.

To discuss your next career opportunity in Information Technology, get in touch with Heat Recruitment today

by Amber Rowbottom