Fifty years ago, if you’d asked for a profile of the average computer programmer, the description you’d have got back might have surprised you. Before home computing gave the industry a legion of young, ambitious men who went on to found the tech giants of today, computing was overwhelmingly a female profession. Pioneers such as Dame Steve Shirley recognised how well it suited women who needed to fit work around childcare. But in 2020, only 20 percent of tech professionals are women – a fact backed up by our own independent research. So, where are we going wrong?
With the digital skills gap becoming more prominent every day, there’s never been a greater need for business leaders to put diversity and inclusion at the forefront of their hiring agenda. Research shows that organisations who are proactive about creating an inclusive culture are seen as more desirable by potential employees. And when there are five jobs for every qualified candidate, it makes sense to welcome applicants from different backgrounds, who often bring the most valuable experiences and perspective to the team.
Building an inclusive culture takes time, but there are things you can action today that will create great foundations for the future.
Be a grassroots advocate
The gender gap in tech starts at school, with studies showing that many girls lose interest in STEM subjects by the age of 15. Fortunately, there are organisations across the country that are tackling this problem with meetups, mentorship programmes, coding clubs, and hackathons. As a business owner, you can connect with local or national grassroots organisations that need support (and it’s a great way to offer your employees the chance to give something back). Search for events around International Women’s Day and Ada Lovelace Day as a starting point.
Challenge your hiring practices
You may not think there’s anything wrong with the way you currently recruit, but there’s an overwhelming body of evidence that shows how small changes can lead to culture change. Have you ever used gender decoding software to check out the inherent bias in your job adverts? Have you looked at the makeup of your hiring panel? If you offer flexible working, are you making it clear in the way you sell your company to potential employees? Have your hiring managers ever had any unconscious bias training? These are all practical ways you can start to address any possible stumbling blocks that you might not have realised exist.
Give your employees the power
Your employees are your best resource, but in many organisations, they are an untapped source of ideas and energy. Employee Resource Groups are a great way of not only finding out how your staff feels about the culture but also encouraging them to invest in it. You could consider a mentoring scheme – this is a useful way of retaining female talent as women can connect with and be inspired by those further up the career ladder. As the saying goes, you cannot be what you cannot see.
As members of the tech ecosystem, what gender equality milestones would you like to see accomplished by 2030?
By Danielle Ramsbottom
About Danielle Ramsbottom
Danielle Ramsbottom is Director, Head of Strategic Alliances & Enterprise Sales for niche IT staffing firm Nigel Frank International. With almost two decades’ of experience in the recruitment industry, she has helped organisations across Europe create inclusive hiring strategies.
Kizzi Nkwocha is the editor of Business Game Changer Magazine and publisher of The UK Newspaper, Money and Finance Magazine, the net’s fastest growing wealth creation publication. Kizzi Nkwocha is chair of The Ethical Publishers Association and co-chair of The Logistics Association. Kizzi made his mark in the UK as a publicist, journalist and social media pioneer. As a widely respected and successful media consultant he has represented a diverse range of clients including the King of Uganda, and Amnesty International. Nkwocha has also become a well-known personality on both radio and television. He has been the focus of a Channel 4 documentary on publicity and has hosted his own talk show, London Line, on Sky TV. He has also produced and presented both radio and TV shows in Cyprus and Spain.