Uniting women and continuing to close the gender gap in tech
We recently hosted the inaugural Babel Women in Tech event for journalists and analysts. As I looked around the room, what stood out to me was the clear passion and love for an ever-evolving sector. A sector that, quite frankly, for many years, women have been underrepresented in.
I’ve been working in the technology sector for almost 20 years, and I naturally found myself comparing this event to some of my very early media and events networking days, when I was often the only woman in the room … and if not, they were another PR.
It got me thinking about the continued gender gap in tech and what steps have been made to narrow it, and whether it is enough. Data from the government-funded growth network Tech Nation revealed that 50% of workers in the labour market as a whole are women, but in tech, it’s half that, at 26%. What’s also concerning is that often women are being driven out of the tech sector due to gendered biases, burnout, and a lack of work-life balance.
It’s also interesting to note that this challenge doesn’t just stem from the point at which people are entering the workforce. The percentage of women graduating in core STEM subjects has stalled at 26% in 2019, so it’s not really surprising to see that a study from PWC showed that only three per cent of females say a career in technology is their first choice, or that 78% of students can’t name a famous female working in technology.
I’m not knocking the changes that have been made, but can’t help but feel frustrated that progress feels like it has stalled and more could be done from an early age to further close the gender gap in tech. From a personal perspective, with two primary-aged children and one in nursery; inspirational women in tech and discussions around future technology careers, aside from those we have at home, are few and far between from a curriculum perspective.
So, how do we attract and retain women in the technology sector?
- Drive more awareness of inspirational women in tech – from the first programmer Ada Lovelace, to the founder and CEO of Girls Who Code Reshma Saujani, to the COO of SpaceX Gwynne Shotwell … the list goes on, and we should all know and recognise the trails they are blazing both in their work and more broadly to encourage greater diversity and representation in their fields.
- Tech companies need to continue to step up more – to change the knowledge and perception of careers in tech and do this from an early age. Babel is currently reviewing options to support a charity programme that provides local learning centres where young people are inspired to achieve. Learning and understanding beyond the school curriculum and broadening career options is a crucial part of this work.
- Make more of the critical role tech plays as a force for good and how it touches every aspect of our daily lives – the phrase goes that ‘with knowledge comes power, and with power comes great responsibility’. If more people understand the changes and impact technology has on the world we live in, now and in the future, this curiosity and excitement will inspire more to explore STEM subjects and careers in tech.
- Mentorship and peer support – throughout my career in tech I have been lucky enough to be guided by some fantastic role models of all genders. Often it’s luck, circumstance, or part of my career development; but across the sector we need to do more to ensure women feel supported, heard and backed for a long-term career path.
- Retention – the 2021 Trust Radius Women in Tech report suggested that 66% of women in tech don’t see a clear path forward in their careers at their current companies. Many often leave the sector before their mid-thirties. As a company that offers extended maternity and paternity packages, flexible working (and not just days in the office but working hours to support childcare collection), if the broader sector doesn’t change fast and wake-up to quite frankly the un-tapped pool of potential leaders, I genuinely fear for our future technology development rate and the difference it can make on the world we live in.
So, please do come to our next networking event, to feel as inspired and passionate about the technology sector as we do at Babel, and continue to make the changes needed to not stall the closing of the gender gap.