It’s in the data: male dominance in the technology sector is bad for women and bad for the industry as well. More women should take action to gain tech skills and rule this world, too.
A survey by LivePerson asked 1,000 people to name women tech leaders. Only 4% could answer – with the most common answer being Alexa or Siri, literally virtual technical assistants. Harsh. Other research found women hold only 25% of computing jobs and only 5% of tech startups were founded by women. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and other male founders have taken center stage in terms of tech success. While women are gradually taking leadership in this traditionally masculine sector, there is still a significant way to go.
You might ask yourself, why do we need more women in tech?
Diversity = Revenue
The workplace (and the world) thrives on diversity and balance. One major reason the under-representation of women in tech matters is that diversity generates more revenue. Research shows that diverse teams perform better. Individuals from different genders, races, backgrounds, and experiences bring different perspectives that lead to innovative solutions. Given the vast changes in the world, we can’t afford not to have all hands on deck.
A Different Way of Thinking
Besides diversity in general, women think differently from men. According to Leah Mansoor, VP of Business Development at Wawiwa Tech Training, such different ways of thinking can have a major impact on the future of the tech industry. For example, empathy is a highly desired skill in tech companies. “Women are naturally more empathetic. It’s easy to let a mechanical process override thoughtful consideration in companies. Empathy helps us combat this bad habit of relying on mechanics to define form and function – and that’s a big advantage to employers,” says Leah.
Lisa Schneider, an award-winning digital executive who has transformed businesses through strategic vision and technology execution, and currently serves as Chief Growth Officer at Framework Home ownership, agrees: “Many of the skills highlighted as the benefits of women executives have traditionally been called ‘soft skills’ and are often downplayed as strong leadership traits. We’re going to have to stop calling them soft.”
Ok, so what’s holding women back from taking more leadership roles in tech?
Lack of Women in the Talent Pool
Based on data from Accenture, the world has more jobs in computer science than graduates available to fill those positions, and yet women only hold 25% of computing jobs. Why? From an early age, the gender stereotype of “boys being better at science and math than girls” can discourage girls from studying STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). According to the OECD, despite the fact that girls perform better than boys in STEM, more boys are considering a career in STEM in adulthood. Add one and one together, and consequently, employers face a gender-biased talent pool that they can recruit from.
Lack of Female Role Models
As children’s rights activist Marian Wright Edelman said: “You can’t be what you can’t see.” When asked to draw a scientist, most students draw a white man in a lab coat. Without women entering the tech industry, finding role models at the top of tech companies becomes increasingly difficult. Having women in senior leadership roles will positively encourage other women, too.
Leah Mansoor owes her long career in the tech sector to her military education, where half of her peers were women. The Israel Defense Force, it turns out, encouraged many women to become officers and advance in position and rank. At 18, Leah was recruited to MAMRAM, IDF’s Center of Computing and Information Systems. “Being part of a tech environment that not only treats women as equal, but also advances women to senior leadership roles, ensured that I never felt discouraged or out of place and always had female role models that inspired me. It was much later in my tech career in the private sector when I suddenly noticed that I am part of a female minority in tech leadership roles, and that was definitely a shock for me.”
This is the Prime Time to Reskill to Tech
If in the past, what stopped women from stepping into tech roles were the long hours or intense studies forcing them to choose between home-life and work, today, accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, most companies are taking on flexible, work-from-home cultures. Employers understand they must enable workers to achieve a work-life balance and show greater understanding towards the need to juggle various life commitments. This new flexibility could make women rethink changing their career. Now, more than ever, is the optimal time to reskill to tech. Tech training is similarly flexible – offering face to face, online or blended program options that are made to accommodate students’ schedules.
Lisa Schneider shares an insight from her experience that includes digitally transforming global companies like Merriam-Webster: “There are two things that scaffolded my pivot into digital technology: having strong curiosity and a learning mindset. Being curious about what could be, and being willing to be in learning mode, were key then and more so now.”
According to Leah Mansoor, her tech background enables her to perform her managerial role in the best way possible. “These days, your career path can come to a stop if you don’t have some tech-related knowledge. Throughout my career, I never hesitated to go back and complete more technology courses to continue learning, even when I was holding senior management positions. It’s important to make sure you never reach that glass ceiling. I firmly believe more women need to learn tech, and fast.”
There are still challenges in the inclusion of women in tech, but the answers to such challenges are clear: give girls more female role models that inspire them, teach women the tech skills they will need, and encourage them to take part in the tech ecosystem, so they can change the world for the better.