Encouraging Women in Technology
Posted on 1st August 2017
Women in technology has been an ongoing conversation for a long time but it has recently intensified due to stories arising from larger start ups.
This isn’t the first time large businesses have gotten into hot water over women in tech.
Tesla was exposed for sexist behaviour at the 2016 Davos conference and Paypal was heavily criticized for holding all male panels on gender equality talks.
Women constitute ⅓ in the IT workforce and it’s hard for them to get any form of real exposure.
In fact, there is so little exposure for these women that 78% of students can’t name a famous female working in the tech space. Lack of female role models reinforces the perception that tech isn’t a career for them (only 3% of female students would consider a career in tech as their first choice).
These numbers aren’t great and could become a negative feedback loop that makes numbers even lower.
We’ve already seen how a lack of women in tech could affect new technology.
Think back to early voice recognition. It didn’t recognise female voices because none of the developers had been female and nobody thought to test on women.
Looking to the future, AI learns like babies do. It picks up data and knowledge from the world around it. So if that world is male, it’s going to have a very limited sphere of knowledge.
With all this in mind, we want to share how start ups can better attract, engage and enrol women to into their business.
Females aren’t considering tech careers as they aren’t given enough information on what working in the sector involves and also because no one is putting it forward as an option (16% of females have had a tech career suggested to them vs 33% for males).
Start ups could look to better engage with female students by partnering with Universities and Colleges.
The partnership could include open days. It could include guest blogs sent to students. For example, ‘ a day in the life of *female employees name*.’ One day a month a female employee could tutor or offer a help stand to help students with their work.
Start ups could take this one step further and engage students at grassroots level to help impact their choice of course when applying to College or University.
This could be done by putting on a monthly ‘class’ for school children in the start ups office or hosting a monthly after school club.
Such engagement at a young age could see an increase in STEM sign ups which in turn should produce more female tech professionals and icons.
We briefly covered it earlier but a lack of female role models reinforces the perception that tech isn’t for women.
Startups should look to make one (or more!) of their female employees a mentor so they can become a role model.
There are many websites your new mentor could join but PWC and Workday have come together to create a place for women in tech to connect to their peers virtually; Connectivity.
Making your female staff mentors would be a double win as it will demonstrate that you value them as individuals (helping to engage and retain them) and gives you exposure to more women in tech (positioning yourselves as a female employer of choice).
Start ups could also look to hold regular meetups that are solely focussed on strengthening female networking and mentoring opportunities.
These would tie in nicely with creating a partnership with an educational institution as the business would be able to invite all female students to each meetup and have their assigned mentor deliver and talks and workshops throughout the event.
By creating a community you can encourage new women to join the tech space and help existing members build a profile and gain exposure.
Of course the tech community shouldn’t just be focused on one gender dominating the tech industry. Startups should be focused on creating an organisation that is inclusive to all.
However, the first step to inclusiveness is ensuring that we continue to encourage women into the tech space and start ups can have a huge influence over this.
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