Compared to 40 years ago, there is a general expectation that women go to work just like men. So why are there still gender gaps and issues in the work environment?
The technology sector isn’t alone in facing gender issues in the workplace, with other sectors also facing criticism with regards to pay, discrimination and working culture that is designed to favour men over women.
Although women collectively make up almost half (47%) of the UK workforce, they only make up 14.4% of the Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) workforce. Technology and its development are vital to the future world we will live in, needing skilled workers including both men and women.
Unfortunately, it is not always the case and despite the best efforts of individual companies the working environment is not always what discourages women from working in the sector, instead, a broad range of issues play a role.
However, a simple change in actions could resolve gender issues in tech.
Starting at the bottom of the ladder school is one way to overcome the gender separation in tech by encouraging the younger generation during their vital years of schooling. However, contrary to this solution a survey from Accenture found 51% of parents believe STEM subjects are for boys only and 42% of teachers holding this view. As a result educating equality and encouragement in the home and at school is the starting point to solve the gender issue in tech.
This year’s GCSE results found the number of girls taking computing as a GCSE grew from 12,528 to 13,232. However this number is still minute in comparison to boys. This year 53,519 boys chose computing GCSE over 30,000 more than girls. At A-Level fewer than 10% of girls took A-Level computing, suggesting that even at school girls find STEM subjects more male orientated.
STEM skills should be a priority taught to all school students in primary and secondary school to encourage both genders they are areas for both genders and close the gender gap across the industry.
Education should be the foundation upon which careers and lives are built upon, if the building blocks aren’t in place to push women into STEM subjects then it’ll be a lot harder at a later age.
Typically in large technology companies there is a male leader, either the CEO or the board of directors. Today there is a growing consensus that more women leaders are needed to encourage the younger generation to take on STEM careers in the future.
Accenture’s survey found that 77% of girls feel the STEM sector lacks high profile female role models. In light of this, with over three quarters of girls feeling this way it could be discouraging.
However, there are so many women leaders in the tech industry. The likes of Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube and Meg Whitman, CEO of HPE both high profile female leaders must augment their roles to reach out to young girls and demonstrate the possibilities of pursuing a career in technology. Female leaders need to be vocal in showing other women that it is their world as much as it is a man’s.
By demonstrating the amount of female leaders to the younger generation can show not only success is for both men and women but to show both genders have the same capabilities to successfully lead and create iconic brands around the world.
Within a business environment, opinions are easily formed and influenced by the culture regarding the way men and women are treated, whether that’s verbally, or in terms of pay. If both a man and woman do exactly the same job, surely their expertise is of the same level.
A former Google employee recently demonstrated just how not to create the right kind of culture in a working environment, by brandishing women to be biologically incapable of doing the same job as men. His published memo resulted in more employees bringing the same views and ultimately creating a culture among Google that portrayed sexist views.
In addition, fellow Silicon Valley Company Uber also failed to create an equal working environment with gender discrimination comparing women to men that they “needed to step up and be better engineers” and that uniform wasn’t being ordered for woman because there weren’t enough in the organisation to justify placing the order for. Following the discrimination, 20 Uber employees were fired.
Having this mentality doesn’t encourage upcoming tech females to want to pursue a career in an industry that men ‘dominate’ and believe women are incapable to carry out tasks. Get rid of the bias culture around the office will leave more room for encouragement and confidence for both genders to perform at their best.
In any business it should be common practice to address someone correctly, without insult. Collectively referring to a group as ‘guys’ could be offensive to some women brandishing the male as the dominant gender to refer to a group collectively.
Equally categorising genders, in any industry, exemplifies a gender gap suggesting one is more powerful and dominant than the other. For example, as more women become leaders and take up positions in the tech sector they have been referred to collectively as “Women in Tech”, rather than being put in the same boat as men genders are separated to suggest one is better than another.
FinTech seems to be improving its diversity after reaching a target of 25% of board representation to be women, according to research by Astbury Marsden. However, sadly gender issues still arise as women working in the FinTech industry have been labelled to work in ‘FemTech’. If it was meant to be a cute, quirky blend to refer women to it sadly failed and ending up sounding more like a feminine product than an industry.
Removing sexist, collective language from the workplace and industry as a whole will enable both men and women to feel it is a welcomed industry for both genders to work in and not make one feel more inferior to the other by creating different categories for another gender.
Common across all industries, it comes as no surprise that pay is causing a gender gap in tech. According to research by PayScale the average difference in men and women’s pay in tech is around 20%, whether the role is an individual worker, part of a management team or executive.
Doing the same job, carrying out the same tasks, the same working hours, using the same expertise and most likely the same qualifications women get less pay on average. Female executives on average earn $135,500 a year while men earn $174,600, with no explanation.
Eliminating pay gaps against genders would significantly reduce gender issues within tech as women would feel equally rewarded for the work they do, rather than being second best to men who do the same job as them. As well as the pay gap being unacceptable, it could be discouraging women to take up jobs in the industry that is growing so quickly.
Closing the pay gap between the two can bring those gender issues to a halt and equally treat men and women in their job positions and capabilities rather than because of their gender.