Where are the Women in Tech?

As part of our series in the run-up to International Women’s Day 2024, our team is reflecting on the issues that affect women in the industries we operate within, and offering their advice on how we can inspire inclusivity and build a more equal future for all.
In this article, Tech Recruiter Jemma Smith describes the challenges that women who are looking to break into the tech industry face and advises how employers can promote inclusivity in their own workforce and application processes.

It will be no surprise to anyone that the Tech industry is still a hugely male-dominated space. As it stands, just 26% of the tech workforce are women, and worryingly, the percentage of women in all tech-related careers has actually decreased over the last 2 years. As a primarily male-dominated space, attempting to break into the tech industry can be a daunting prospect. The issue is that there is a cycle caused by a lack of representation and role models for those women who may be interested in pursuing a career in the industry, which leads them not to apply, so the cycle continues. This can be traced back to early education, where pupils surveyed still view tech as a non-viable option for women to enter.

So, why should we care? Aside from building a more inclusive and fair future for everyone, studies have now shown that companies that include women in their workforce are actually more profitable: according to findings from a report conducted by McKinsey, the likelihood of a business outperforming their competitors is 48% higher for the most gender-diverse businesses. However, a report published in 2020 estimated that, unless drastic action is taken, the gender gap in the tech industry is not expected to close until 2120.

Building a more diverse workforce benefits all involved, but drastic action from tech businesses is needed to speed up the process.


What can businesses do to help?

Education and training

Unconscious bias training within your workforce is a good place to start, but shifting the narrative in the industry as a whole is crucial: Tech City UK conducted a survey and reported that 45% of females said they lack technology skills, 38% lack knowledge about technology and 24% of them said technology was not for people like them. Tech firms can combat all of this by forming partnerships with educational institutes, providing work experience, and volunteering themselves for events to give insight into the industry and show that tech is a viable option for women. Equally, offering support for women looking to re-enter the industry and retrain at an entry-level is a great way to be a pioneer within the industry and build a pipeline of diverse talent.


Be conscious of your job adverts

Job ads are the first stumbling block to hiring a diverse workforce, and they may dissuade women from applying without you even realising it. Generally speaking, if a male applicant believes that their skills can match up with half of the job specification, they will still apply; conversely, if a woman doesn’t match at least 90% of the requirements, she won’t apply at all. It is common for job descriptions to be made up of language that is defined as ‘male-oriented’, such as ‘strong’, ‘lead’, ‘tackles’, ‘assert’, and ‘driven’, but research shows that use of this language is often very off-putting for women, so using the correct language within your job adverts is vital in ensuring that you receive a diverse set of applicants. There are plenty of analytical software tools available that will analyse your job descriptions for you and will highlight the weighting of masculine language being used, providing opportunities for you to diversify your descriptions and, as a result, your applicants.


Assess your offering

Are your benefits inclusive, and is your salary offering equal? Do you have a package in place for maternity leave? Do you have adequate support in place for returning mothers? Assessing how your benefits stack up and appeal to every demographic is vital to attracting women to your workplace. Equally, it’s important to regularly assess your internal gender pay gap to ensure that unconscious bias isn’t affecting your offering. Data has shown that, even at the highest level, black women CEOs receive up to 38% less pay than their White male coworkers and counterparts. This evidence puts into stark contrast the inequalities that exist in the industry for women and ethnic minorities.


Are you flexible enough?

Being one of the few industries that have a pre-covid history of remote work, it would be easy to assume that the tech industry would be easily accommodating of women who have other responsibilities outside of work, such as working mothers or caregivers, and could afford the flexibility to allow them to flourish in their role and also meet the external demands on their time. However, finding true flexibility in the workplace is still quite rare; businesses that are looking to embrace a more diverse set of professionals into their team need to ensure they have created a culture of genuine flexibility, where workers won’t feel guilty for having to alter their hours at the last minute when a situation arises that necessitates this. On the other hand, businesses must also ensure they’re accommodating flexibility but also not encouraging over-work, a consequence that is particularly common among women returning to work and trying to balance childcare.


Progression and role models

The same report referenced earlier in this article found that just 10% of those in C-suite professional roles are women. While this is a definite improvement and an upward trend, there is a lot more work to be done for individual businesses to improve the diversity of their leadership teams, attracting more women to their business at all levels. Mapping out the pathways to progression clearly ensures that each individual has the same opportunity to advance; equally, championing the voices of women and other minorities within your business is vital to ensure every individual has the opportunity to contribute in what might otherwise be a room filled with the same confident voices.


To close the decades-long gap between men and women within the tech industry, businesses in the sector really need to be asking themselves the difficult questions: Is this an inclusive workplace? Are we advocating for women effectively? Are there changes we could be making internally that could promote greater diversity within our workforce? Simply put, are we doing enough?