According to research from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, women make up just 26% of the UK’s digital workforce. The figures are even bleaker across some of the world’s biggest technology companies: Apple has 20% of women employees in technology, Google has 17% of women in its workforce, while Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter have 16.6%, 15% and 10% respectively. Even allowing for margins of error, they point towards a dearth of women in technology.
So, where are the women?
Competition for female talent in technology is rife and the number of women is said to have stalled - in some cases, even declined. According to a Reuters study, a third of the technology executives surveyed stated that their groups had no women in leadership positions.
Job growth in the technology sector is predicted to outstrip that of other sectors. If women want to be at the seat of power in the future they need to sit at the technology table, especially as leaders in technology are being promoted to roles of increasing seniority and have started to take CEO positions.
But with accusations of a sexist culture still pervading the industry, and an increasing lack of females studying technical degrees, such as Computer Science (despite an otherwise high proportion of female university students and graduates), will the balance ever be redressed?
In an attempt to address the issue of gender disparity, some of the world’s biggest technology companies have tried to implement a series of female-friendly policies, ranging from egg-freezing, to extended paternity leave, to spending millions to achieve equal pay.
Better female engagement in technical education and the abolishment of workplace sexism aside, there are, perhaps, some very clear steps that can be taken to address the issue in today’s existing workforce.
"...companies with women on the Board of Directors are more successful..."
Women should be promoted into senior leadership roles. One of the world's leading global public relations firms conducted a piece of research which shows that women are more likely to become CEOs if their current CEO is a woman. So there is a precedent to suggest the promotion of female talent will be self-perpetuating. Furthermore, a detailed piece of research conducted by Credit Suisse shows that companies with more women on the Board of Directors are more successful, in very quantifiable terms. This clearly adds to the evidence suggesting the promotion of women into senior leadership is a very positive step indeed.
Whilst the aforementioned female-friendly policies being introduced by some of the world’s major technology companies are groundbreaking, they fail to focus on a key group of female talent: Returners. Women who have taken time out of their careers to raise children or travel with partners can too easily be forgotten and are in danger of struggling to return to work despite being top talent.
The demand from our clients to find female technology leadership is incredibly high and we place a great deal of focus on thinking laterally to fulfil this. A degree of compromise is needed on occasion, but difficulties can be addressed quickly with a personalised onboarding programme, helping to accelerate a transition. For example the candidate might have come from another regulated industry or be a returner who needs help understanding current regulation and products.
Diverse technology leadership is hugely important and will continue to be a focus in Financial Services for years to come. In time this should help inspire the junior female talent, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. We will watch with interest how this all plays out...