Diversity in the IT channel
IT Europa asked four female leaders for their views on the following:
- How can we encourage more women into the tech industry and close the gender gap?
- Is it key to help encourage more girls to take STEM subjects and pursue technical careers at school to set them on a path to a career in tech?
- Where does the industry need to be in terms of the representation of women in technical roles, including leadership positions such as CEO?
With these questions in mind, Claudia answered:
From initial research conducted by the PA Women in Tech team with industry clients, companies must focus on removing blockers across four dimensions: Attracting, Recruiting, Retaining and Retraining Gender Diverse Talent in STEM. No dimension can or should be de-prioritised. More specifically in each dimension:
Attract: portraying your brand ‘as friendly and open minded’ may not be enough in the STEM context to attract women. Companies should put greater focus on describing how they humanise and use technology as a source for good.
Recruit: companies need to go beyond just checking job descriptions, interview questions and slots to accommodate diverse requirements. To really drive change, companies need to turn their recruitment approaches and avenues upside down, through targeted career changer schemes, cross-companies secondments and partnerships with not-for-profit such as CodeFirstGirls.
Retain: the issue of a leaky pipeline (women leaving companies) cannot be fixed in isolation. Men should be educated around the retention challenges and issues facing women and make a pledge to drive a 360 change. Otherwise, any internal initiative will just result in women preaching to the choir.
Retrain: companies need to tangibly drive re-skilling and upskilling of female talent in tech through coding courses and cloud certifications for example. They should offer different pathways for different roles and levels of expertise.
It is vital that companies get involved in encouraging the next generation; Here at PA we are due to launch a school outreach programme focused on creating a female pipeline of tech talent for the future. Only 3% of women consider tech as a first choice in their early career choice – this means that tangible efforts must be made to support young women to broaden their horizons and consider STEM subjects. If this is not done now, the problem will never be solved – there will be a 90% increase in demand for tech skills in the next 15 years, which will be impossible to meet through female talent.
This change is going to take more than just a standard presentation to schools on why Tech is for everyone. Instead, companies need to:
- Make tech entertaining: how can tech be demystified by linking it to topics / games / interests of young female talent? And if someone is hooked, what can they do from day one? Without hands-on access to coding platforms, young female talent will soon lose interest.
- Educate and support teachers: we need to make sure that there’s no unconscious bias in the way in which STEM teachers teach and interact with the kids. By simply making assumptions about what a young girl likes or does not, they could prevent someone from developing a passion for STEM. Teachers already have a hard task on their hands which is why more targeted support should be provided to them.
Companies should align their diversity outcomes and priorities to their business priorities – this will allow them to harness the power of DE&I (especially at the senior level) to drive ingenious ideas. If they don’t, not only would it be morally wrong, but they would also be worse off as a result.
So, what does a board of the future look like? It should have a fair representation of society and their customer base, care about both diversity (how many women) and Inclusion & Equity (is everyone treated with respect? Are women’s ideas heard?), and be a board where women are not only represented and included but also supported by male-allies and senior counterparts.