IWD 2021: Putting the spotlight on tech’s gender imbalance

Ryan Daws is a senior editor at TechForge Media with over a decade of experience in crafting compelling narratives and making complex topics accessible. His articles and interviews with industry leaders have earned him recognition as a key influencer by organisations like Onalytica. Under his leadership, publications have been praised by analyst firms such as Forrester for their excellence and performance. Connect with him on X (@gadget_ry) or Mastodon (@gadgetry@techhub.social)

On International Women’s Day, Developer puts a spotlight on the gender imbalance in software development and the wider technology industry.

Kicking off with salaries, Puppet’s latest annual DevOps Salary Report highlights the continued pay gap between genders.

25 percent of female respondents reported earning between $100,000 and $125,000. In comparison, 18 percent of male respondents reported salaries in this salary bracket.

However, moving up to top salaries — classed as earning more than $125,000 — evidence of the “glass ceiling” emerges. Three percent of men report earning more than $125,000 per year compared to just one percent of women.

Heather Ames, Co-Founder and COO at Neurala, says:

“As a leader in technology, I am acutely aware of the gender and social inequality in the industry. In honour of International Women’s Day, I am proud to speak up and advocate for fellow women in technology, business, and beyond.

2020 was hard on society, but for women in particular, the pandemic set us back professionally. This past year I have seen so many women struggle to manage parental obligations and caregiving with their careers.

Today, I think we all need to focus our empathy on the struggles of these women – just because someone is at home helping their child get ready for school, does not mean that they are less committed or passionate about their work.”

Research from accelerateHER, an organisation committed to addressing the underrepresentation of women in tech, found that over half (57%) of survey respondents believe the pandemic has set gender roles back. 34 percent feel this regression could be as much as 10-20 years.

75 percent of respondents in accelerateHER’s study believe women are shouldering the burden of home-schooling and 76 percent have experienced an increase in household tasks during COVID-19 lockdowns.

Laura Stebbing, co-CEO of accelerateHER, commented:

“IWD is a moment in the year to highlight the state of the world for women. This year, it’s never felt more important, as COVID-19 threatens to reverse the important gains that have been made for women’s equality.

For too long it’s been down to women to change the system, but men are more likely to be in positions of power to drive change. Men can do this by sponsoring a junior woman, bringing her to key meetings, advocating, providing opportunities to do things that will help her get ahead.”

54 percent of surveyed women in the technology sector feel the pandemic has made it more difficult for them to break into the industry. Prior to the pandemic, 59 percent of the women surveyed felt gender roles were progressing towards parity.

Half of respondents believe it’s now more challenging to achieve a senior leadership position or get onto the board.

Emilie West, Interim Chairperson at Live Group, said:

“Whilst all FTSE 350 companies now have at least one female board member, most firms have achieved this by promoting women to non-executive directorships. It means there is still a real lack of senior female leadership in our corporations, with only 17 female CEOs leading the FTSE 350.

If we are to rectify this, it is important that women at a young age don’t limit their horizons when planning their careers and can see that there are many paths to success. I myself set out to succeed in my career without adhering to gender biases and achieved that both in my career in investment banking and my appointment as a non-executive Director while in my 30s.

Sadly, my experience is still relatively unique, especially amongst female board members, but there is no reason this cannot change.”

While there’s still a clear problem across fields, the technology sector appears to at least be progressing faster in gender equality than most.

A recent investigation from business intelligence software developer Panintelligence found that women are more than twice as likely to lead a UK tech company than a FTSE 350 enterprise. Nine percent of UK tech firms are currently led by a female CEO — which is still far too few — but more than double the just four percent of FTSE 350 companies.

Zandra Moore, CEO of Panintelligence, says more work must be done:

“While it’s important to recognise that these figures show the technology sector is leading the way in female leadership, it’s clear that more must be done to both increase the percentage in our own industry and within the wider business community as well. Events such as International Women’s Day continue to shine a light on the capabilities of women everywhere and must continue to do so.

When trying to climb the corporate ladder women often still face a number of challenges; such as gender bias, inequality, a lack of support from their male counterparts, outdated workplace cultures and even negative mindsets and thoughts. Even family choices, such as wanting to start a family, can hinder women’s progress in reaching top leadership positions.

If men and women don’t work together more effectively to raise awareness and tackle these issues, then the gender gap may exist for some time to come – yet studies have shown that companies with gender diversity in leadership outperform their less diverse peers. Committing to diversity targets, creating female talent networks, implementing flexible working models or restructuring recruitment processes are all ways in which businesses can encourage gender diversity in boardrooms.”

While progress is being made, especially in the technology sector, there’s still clearly more to be done. The COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on everyone but women, especially mothers, have shouldered a disproportionate burden and should not be held back from progressing in their careers.

Fortunately, a “fresh wave” of female entrepreneurs are expected to emerge post-COVID. According to research commissioned by Small Business Britain’s f:Entrepreneur campaign, almost one-fifth (17%) are considering starting their own business.

Michelle Ovens CBE, founder of Small Business Britain and f:Entrepreneur, commented:

“This research underlines that female entrepreneurship continues to grow and flourish in the UK. 

While 2021 will of course continue to be tough for small businesses, there are huge opportunities out there for women to grow and start their businesses. We saw a wave of start-up activity after the last recession, and with other figures sadly showing that women have been particularly affected by recent redundancies, I believe female-led businesses will be at the very heart of the UK’s recovery.

We need to continue, and increase, our support for these incredible women and celebrate their amazing strength and success in the face of huge challenges.”

Last year, f:Entrepeneur – an initiative launched in 2017 to highlight inspiring female entrepreneurs – received a record number of applications to be part of its annual #ialso100 campaign.

Small Business Minister Paul Scully said: “Supporting women entrepreneurs is essential as we build back fairer from the pandemic, levelling the playing field for people from all backgrounds in business and ensuring that Britain’s economy flourishes.”

World-changing advancements have been made by people from all backgrounds. Unlocking the full potential of everyone — regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, age, or any other attribute — is in all of our interests.

(Photo by Dainis Graveris on Unsplash)

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this? Attend the co-located 5G Expo, IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data Expo, and Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London, and Amsterdam.

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