What’s Holding Back Women in Technology?

An ongoing discussion on the presence of the female gender in technology continues to draw worrying conclusions. Even as the number of women taking up tech roles in organizations has increased significantly over the last decade, it is safe to say that there still is a long way to go. It remains a male domain, despite different gender activists pushing for equality across the divide.

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Women and Technology

Following the findings that women lag in technology, there were reports that the progression towards attaining gender equality is not uniform. It varies from region to region, with some registering far worse stats. In Europe, for example, where you would expect equality to be almost at par, progression has been getting worse for two years now. North America has seen some significant improvement as most people have adopted home working.

Latin America, education is the key driver to the achievements witnessed over the last couple of years. Women are engaging in tech subjects more than before, and society is becoming increasingly aware of women’s potential.

To achieve global representation and ensure a positive career experience for women, strategic steps and initiatives are almost mandatory to support tech careers. These steps include the provision of more internship programs to facilitate access to opportunities.

However, to make the tech industry more conducive for women, the journey needs to start from the bottom. “The issue of gender stereotypes needs to be addressed long before women enter the workplace. It needs to start at school, to engage and encourage an interest in IT and tech fields.” Said Noushin Shabab, a Senior Security Researcher for the Global Research & Analysis Team at Kaspersky. “The first step in a new direction is always the hardest. Without a supportive environment, girls can struggle to find kindred spirits in online communities or at relevant offline events. They need to see that IT professionals are ordinary people with diverse skillsets and abilities, and that anyone can inspire to join the tech space.”

To guarantee equal representation, some companies have introduced quotas. Besides adding numbers, the quota system is meant to increase the chances of altered behaviors and to minimize sexism at the workplace. Empowering women to take up senior positions creates role models who share their respective career experiences to young girls planning to join the tech industry.

However, establishing quotas is not the only proven way to create balance or ensure more women are involved in tech. According to Dr. Ronda Zelezny, the co-founder and director of Panoply Digital, a lot can also be achieved through unbiased hiring. “There is a famous saying that ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’. In the past few years, there have been increasing calls to improve the representation of women in technology and IT. While quotas can represent a relatively quick way to address the issue, the technology industry has proven to be institutionally misogynistic in ways that mean even quotas are insufficient for addressing the gender imbalance or aiding the progression of women to senior IT roles.”

Zeleny goes on to recommend hiring measures such as masking identifying information from job applications, speaking in a language that eliminates sex-bias in job advertisements, and using hiring committees instead of individuals. “Tech and IT sector employers committed to more gender-balanced workforces should undertake regular assessments of the policies and procedures they have in place, with women, to ensure they still result in progressive movement for female colleagues. One of the main reasons we are not realizing a faster pace of change in this area is because too much of the activity surrounding gender equality in IT focuses on one-off gimmicks and bandaid solutions that can be spotlighted in the press, instead of focusing attention on female employees and the actions that will truly make a sustained difference in their professional lives.”

Experts believe that while there is no sure-fire way to accelerate progress, there is a need for the whole ecosystem to be involved. All stakeholders need to be addressed and educated on the importance of empowering women and bringing them forward in the tech industry. It is time the world understood that women have equal potential as their male counterparts, and the factors contributing to their lower numbers should be looked into and addressed.