It’s 2022 and we still have gender disparity in STEM and the wider tech sector.
The UNESCO Science Report 2021 found women are still under-represented in the fields of computing, engineering, mathematics, and physics. Only 28% of engineering graduates are women, and only three out of 10 researchers are female. Even in tech companies, where policies are becoming more inclusive, women are still underrepresented in technical and leadership roles, according to the report.
This is despite the anecdotal and formal research revealing women are as effective in leadership roles as their male peers. A pilot study by EQUALS Global Partnership found 58% of female senior and mid-level managers in tech companies identify as “transformational leaders”, and that teams find them more “democratic and sensitive.” And yet, 7 out of 10 of them feel they are being treated differently at work because of their gender.
The UNESCO Science Report already said it best: “We are in a race against time for smarter development.” Research shows closing this gender gap is critical if we want to have a better future for our industries.
For starters, in a world that is largely driven by software development we have the extremely imbalanced scenario where, according to a global software developer survey in 2021, the vast majority of developers are males, accounting for 91.7 percent of all respondents. Female developers amounted to only five percent of all respondents, demonstrating the male-dominated reality of software jobs. It begs the question: Is this a healthy or welcome disparity when software is so intrinsic to shaping our world view and driving economic opportunity?
BloombergNEF report also found that boards with 30% more women have better climate governance and innovation policies. With climate change posing new threats to the environment, a gender-diverse workforce can bring greater experiences, knowledge, and skills to the table.
Even for their bottomline, companies benefit from a more diverse team in their fold. A McKinsey study found that companies in the top quartile of gender diversity on their executive teams are 25% more likely to achieve above-average profitability.
What the tech industry can do to be more inclusive
As builders of products and services that change habits and dictate trends, the tech industry can definitely make a dent in filling this gender gap in STEM. And experts have some insight on how it can best pursue this.
The World Economic Forum, which produces an annual gender disparity report, says empathy is crucial if we are to close this hiring gap. It’s especially needed when female leaders and workers start speaking up about the challenges they encounter in the organization. These talks can be tense and complex, which underscores their importance. Ensuring effective communication in the workplace means all members of an organization are empowered and encouraged enough to share their suggestions and possible grievances. When done well, these talks can help companies craft better policies.
Once organizations know what they may lack, they can set clear targets in their efforts. According to McKinsey, this may mean rethinking roles in terms of capabilities required. Teams may have to be reskilled, and recruiting channels may have to be widened, to ensure inclusivity.
McKinsey also recommends that organizations flesh out reasons as to why diversity and gender balance are important for them. It’s time to ask: Are we setting these goals for representation’s sake? Or do we truly believe in what these prospective hires can offer? With tech industries leading these conversations, policymakers may also be influenced to create policies that can help them advance these talks.
One of the key recommendations of the EQUALS Global Partnership survey is that the public sector start providing legal and policy incentives to encourage and, in some instances, mandate the gender balance in decision-making positions in businesses and reform organizational culture that will highlight women’s leadership.
A commitment to gender diversity and equality
Breaking the gender bias in the tech industry is a challenging effort that requires serious commitment. McKinsey noted how even companies that made tangible progress in increasing inclusivity in their organizations have trouble keeping it sustainable. In its report, it emphasized the challenges companies that deployed inclusivity programs in keeping up with their goals. This is when persistence and inspirational leadership can come into play.
Indeed, organizations can be overwhelmed with these expectations. But progress for women is progress for all. Ensuring gender diversity allows products and services to be developed with inclusivity in mind, and help organizations thrive. The tech industry is one that constantly makes breakthroughs and takes the lead in transforming many lives. Just imagine what more we can do when our sector becomes more inclusive and closes the gender gap.