We read a really interesting article recently, authored by our friend Rachel McElroy at Solutionize Global. She spoke openly and professionally about the ongoing lack of women in tech, and we liked the UK Tech News piece so much, that we shared it on our social media channels.
A healthy debate then followed, showing the magnitude of this particular diversity issue, and also the wider equality challenges that the tech sector perhaps still faces on the whole.
So we wanted to keep the conversation going, and delve a little deeper into some of the key points made...
“Not enough women want to work in the sector” said one individual.
But, if this is true, let’s not leave it there. Is it because the roles genuinely aren’t of interest? Or is the real issue that many tech employers don’t offer a working environment that reflects the wants and needs of potential female applicants? Change may therefore be required if this is the case.
And of the employers who do try to do everything they can to support a diverse workforce, are they being vocal enough about the opportunities they offer? If you’re a passionate, people-first organisation and you don’t care about factors such as the gender, ethnicity or age of colleagues, shout louder.
At Vapour, we don’t discriminate during our recruitment process in any way, and we’ll certainly be banging the drum harder, so that more people know this. It’s also important to note that as part of colleagues’ personal development plans, we encourage everyone to understand the business end-to-end, to fuel their continued learning and open up the opportunities for them to progress in virtually any direction. As one of Vapour’s first employees, and now their newly-promoted head of operations and compliance, I am hopefully evidence of the potential that exists to grow within our team.
“There are plenty of women who want to work in the sector” retorted another individual.
She commented that in the North West alone, 3,900 women are looking to return to working in tech after a career break, and furthermore, 23,000 applied to a re-skilling programme on which there were only 16 places available.
These numbers would suggest that the interest and desire is there, but the roles sadly aren’t. Business development and customer service positions are increasingly being filled by women, said another commentator. But few women tend to take on overly technical roles. Of course there are exceptions to this generalisation, and it was great to read some very stand-out success stories also shared during this debate. However, let’s push for more.
Is there an instant fix to this problem?
Perhaps not - certainly if we consider the national picture, not just that in the North. Employing a more diverse workforce shouldn’t just be a tick box exercise. Responsible employers will want to appoint people genuinely best suited to the roles available. But are the most exciting people always applying? It seems unlikely.
Is this situation ideal?
Of course not. It is ridiculous that we’re discussing such matters in 2020.
Is the lack of women in tech the sector’s only diversity challenge?
No, far from it. This industry would benefit from a far greater variety of voices, backgrounds, skill-sets and mindsets - something that could be said for so many UK industries, not just tech. Vapour’s CEO Tim Mercer spoke to Business Cloud about this topic last year - different people offer different perspectives, and organisations can become far more enriched when they welcome such diverse viewpoints.
Is there light at the end of the tunnel?
Yes, I believe there is, and that’s why we have to view this matter as an opportunity, not just a challenge - especially given the world of tech is growing so quickly.
The very fact that so many people are talking about the need for greater diversity in tech, evidences the appetite for change. Business leaders are doing more, and I hope that their vocal support for workplace equality will encourage further momentum.
We’re seeing an increasing number of female role models too, which is sure to inspire others. When I started out in my tech career, being a women in this environment didn’t even cross my mind, but that’s perhaps because my head of department was female - I simply saw a good role model.
The onus shouldn’t just be on employers and role models of course - the world of education has a large part to play too, and the sooner youngsters can be inspired to explore a career in tech, the better. Thankfully, STEM has never been such a hot topic, but conversations must become more specific. ‘Tech’ is such a broad term, so how many primary and secondary school pupils understand exactly what roles exist and where a position in tech could take them? And how many work placements are then geared towards school students, rather than undergraduates and beyond, to give them that all-important ‘real world’ insight and help keep them enticed?
In short, we must keep talking. Employers. Business leaders. Employees. Careers advisors. Industry experts. Industry novices. The tech sector’s most experienced talent. And the tech sector’s brightest potential. Let’s see where, together, we can take this...