Empowering Women in Technology – Shaping a More Inclusive and Innovative Future
Some good news in honour of International Women’s Day! Some of the largest players in the tech industry will likely continue to remove barriers for women in tech in the year ahead. According to Deloitte Global, technology firms around the world predicted a nearly 33% growth of overall female representation in their workforces in 2022. On the flip side, a report by The World Bank reveals women make up less than a third of the world’s workforce in technology-related fields. So, the question remains, can we do more to ensure equal opportunity for women in tech-related roles and industries and inspire growth in 2023 and beyond?
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #EmbraceEquity. As such, let’s take a brief look at women’s contributions to technology over the years:
Significant contributions throughout history
Women have been involved in tech throughout the course of history. Back in the early days of computing, women played a significant role in programming and software development. The most well-known early female computer scientists was Ada Lovelace, who is widely regarded as the world’s first computer programmer for her work on Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engineer in the mid-1800s.
Moving on to the 1950s and 60s, women were heavily involved in computer programming, with many working as ‘human computers’ who manually performed complex mathematical calculations. Since then, the computing industry has certainly become more lucrative and despite ongoing challenges and underrepresentation, women continue to make significant contributions on the technology front. However, many tech companies are incorporating initiatives and policies to encourage more women to pursue careers in technology, such as mentorship programs, coding bootcamps and efforts to create a more inclusive workplace.
“At Haefele, we recognise the importance of understanding the barriers women can face in many tech businesses,” says People & Culture Associate Jamie-Lee Havenga. “We take several steps to attract and retain talented women in our workplace, including actively scouting for women in IT via our recruitment platforms, ensuring that our job ads and campaigns appeal to women, having women present on our panel when conducting interviews and providing mentorship to support women in our organisation.”
Facing the stats
Despite huge strides in the workplace, international findings confirm that women are still significantly underrepresented in the tech field:
- Women hold 28% of all jobs in computer and mathematical occupations, and 15.9% of jobs in engineering and architecture occupations.
- In the European Union, women make up only 17% of the ICT (Information and Communication Technology) sector.
- The percentage of women employees at Google has slightly risen to 33.9% in 2022.
To provide more opportunities for women in tech industries, organisations must create a fair and inclusive workplace for everyone through diversity. Promoting diversity in the tech industry is crucial addressing social and economic inequalities like disparities in access to tech education and career opportunities for underrepresented groups like women and people of colour.
Adds Jamie-Lee, “At Haefele, we take equality in opportunity seriously, which is especially evident in our interview process, and appraisal and performance management. To ensure that our interview process is equitable and unbiased, we always ensure that more than one woman is present in the interview panel, including myself. By including multiple women on the interview panel, we demonstrate our commitment to promoting gender diversity and providing equal opportunities for all candidates, regardless of gender. We believe that doing so is essential to ensure that women feel valued and respected in our organisation.”
She continues, “We understand the importance of addressing potential biases during performance appraisals to ensure that each employee receives fair and objective feedback. To support this, we have implemented a policy to ensure that a female representative is present during performance appraisals for women in our organisation. This policy serves two purposes. Firstly, it creates a sense of comfort for our female employees, knowing that they will have a representative present during their appraisal. Secondly, it helps avoid any potential biases that may arise during the appraisal process. We believe that this policy is essential to promoting a fair and unbiased workplace and is one of the many steps we take to help women employees feel supported in our company.”
Other examples to provide a better space for women in the IT industry include providing equal pay and career growth opportunities, providing flexible working arrangements, mentorship, and sponsorship programs, addressing potential biases and discrimination within the organisation, fostering a supportive work environment, and providing parental leave and support.
Changing the status quo
There are many organisations and enterprises paving the way for women in tech. Here are some examples of organisations making headway in removing barriers for women in the tech industry by offering training and education for women interested in software development and coding:
Code Like a Girl – A UK-based social enterprise providing coding education and support to women and girls.
Girls Who Code – A non-profit organisation offering coding clubs, camps and after-school programmes for girls aged 11 to 18 to learn about coding and other technical skills.
Stemettes – A social enterprise providing opportunities for girls and young women to learn about STEM fields through events.
DevelopHer – A UK-based organisation supporting women in technology through mentorship, networking events and educational resources.
Black Girls Code – A non-profit organisation providing technology education to women of colour.
GirlCode – A non-profit organisation focussing on empowering young women through technology by offering coding bootcamps and mentorship programmes.
SheCodes – An online platform offering coding workshops and courses for women.
Umuzi – A digital academy offering coding and design courses to young women from underprivileged backgrounds.
ProjectF – A tech company creating greater gender diversity in tech.
The buck doesn’t stop here
By taking deliberate steps to encourage and empower women in tech, companies create a more diverse and inclusive industry that benefits everyone through equal opportunities, mentorship, and sponsorship programs. By doing so, they can tap into a wider pool of talent and expertise, leading to improved business outcomes and a more innovative and productive workplace.
Adds Jamie-Lee, “We’re strong believers in work-life balance, and to support this we offer a flexible working environment, including remote work options, and benefits such as fully paid maternity leave. We also provide the necessary resources to support physical and mental health and wellbeing.”
That said, advocating for women in tech is not only the responsibility of companies and management. We can all play a role in supporting and encouraging women in these fields, whether it’s by mentoring and sponsoring women, promoting diversity and inclusion, or challenging bias and discrimination in the workplace.
In short, supporting and advocating for women in tech is essential to building a stronger, more inclusive industry. By working together, we can create a future where everyone has equal access to the opportunities and benefits of the tech industry.
If you’d like to hear more on this topic, make sure to check out our podcast episode: