Women in tech: What will it take to correct the gender imbalance?
The past few years have seen an impressive rise in the movement to support women in the technology sector. They have carved a niche for themselves; from actively participating in hackathons, becoming founders of innovative tech platforms to pursuing leadership roles, they are doing it all.
Still, women hold only 5% of leadership positions in the technology industry.
The key questions the industry is facing are: Have we done enough to encourage women to increase their presence in tech? Are we providing the required support to empower women to climb the corporate ladder while balancing the act of managing their family and society expectations? Are women leaders receiving sufficient mentorship within and outside the organisation? How do we make our organisations and society more inclusive?
According to the new World Economic Forum report, the global gender gap will take 100 years to close at the current rate of change.
So, why do women refrain from pursuing a career in tech? Based on my discussions with peers and women in the industry, here are a couple of observations:
- Women managing technology struggle to keep up due to lack of mentorship to grow in their roles. It may be easier to say that women don’t have the bandwidth to balance professional and personal commitments and stay in step with technological advancements. However, the real reason would be to not have a mentor who could tell them how their career would pan if they get into technical leadership roles.
- Culturally and biologically women are creative, resourceful and exhibit good people skills. So, they tend to take up creative or people management roles, meeting the stereotype they have seen for generations. This often leads to organisations ignoring them for roles that may require technical expertise.
How can this change?
Women should be encouraged early on to take up a career in technology. Girls in school should be motivated and told they can be great engineers, lead technical teams and overhaul enterprise technology landscape.
Just as women doctors inspire young girls to join the medical fraternity, women in the field of technology and engineering can set an excellent example for young girls.
Girls are less likely to study STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects at school, and this gap continues through university. Such a leaky pipeline means fewer women pursue a career in technology.
Career counselling sessions in colleges and universities are major influencers for young women. They begin much later in the career journey and should start early to make a psychological imprint on the young minds.
While our education system does teach science, technology, engineering and mathematics, it is very theoretical and it is more important to teach the application of concepts at an early age to generate curiosity.
Still, not all is lost. The steps mentioned above need to be implemented in the education system. Companies, too, should use some of these principles to influence young and mature minds to pursue a career in technology.
Yogita Khaitan is director for programme management at digital marketing company SapientRazorfish.