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June 6, 2017

Women in tech: Could diversity in the workplace benefit revenue?

Will the hope for an increase in business revenue enable business execs to embrace diversity and encourage more women into tech?

By Hannah Williams

Women in Tech have faced challenges for decades in the struggle to be seen as equal to men, a struggle that appears to show no chance of abating as the tech sector clearly still struggles from a lack of diversity and equality.

For instance, it is worrying that the open source community is made up of 95% men and 3% women, according to a 2017 open source survey. This shows that the issue of diversity spreads wider across different sectors in the industry.

Research from last year’s World Economic Forum showed that the gender gap is unlikely to disappear until 2186 and in light of equal pay, women have to wait until 2133 before it happens. So while having an equal split of men to women in tech is one thing, the pay gap is another major issue.

Both the pay and gender skills gap are two major issues that even though company execs talk about wanting to close the gap, are not seen to be doing so.

Read more: GitHub Survey: Harassment & little diversity found in the open source community

Execs say cloud skills and other essential tech skills are important but yet they do not care about closing the gender gap in the industry, a cloud skills report from Microsoft found that tech leaders believe cloud computing skills are critical to the organisation, but 35% of organisations have no intention of changing the gender imbalance.

This shows that company’s priorities lie more towards digital transformation and increasing revenue, with minimal interest in diversity.

It is understandable that every CEO is interested in finding the best ways to make profits for their business, but this should not be put on an extremely higher scale than the care they have for what percentage of their staff is female.

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Besides, research from Mckinsey has found that companies which embrace more diverse workforces are found to perform better financially than industry rivals which have reduced diversity.

So if CEOs are really looking for ways to boost business revenue, why not change the situation of the business and industry altogether by encouraging more women into tech and then watch how diversity will increase revenue.

Currently, IT teams consist of 80 percent male and 20 percent female, the gap between women and equal pay and women and equal representation is huge.

Several reports highlight how the UK is currently lacking in tech skills and many organisations still fail to realise that this is due to the underfunding and the inability to train people fast enough.

So what about the pay gap, men are being paid more for the same jobs that women do. Women in the UK earn nine percent less on average than males in the same job roles, which brings them down to be losing around £5,000 a year, according to a report from Fawcett Society.

Many organisations are working to close the gender gap in the best way possible with initiative groups which are deployed to encourage women to look ahead in the workplace.

Andrew Lawson, Head of Enterprise Sales EMEA, Salesforce told CBR: “At Salesforce, equality is a core value and we’re taking action to advance equality across the business through equal pay, equal opportunity and equal education.

“We often say that “you can’t be what you can’t see” and so we encourage female employees at all levels to be active mentors for the next generation as they evaluate career choices. We want our young women to see for themselves the rewarding opportunities in the tech industry.”

Although there are many organisations such as Salesforce that have developed initiatives to tackle the issue of diversity, an imbalance is still apparent in the industry. “This imbalance needs to be addressed- not just by government but by the UK tech industry too- to get a permanent fix for this tech skills shortage,” said Lawson.

This raises a question as to whether the things being done to bring more women into tech are actually working. Yes, companies are using initiatives and other female groups to encourage diversity but if a gender imbalance still remains in the industry it is difficult to count them as effective.

It could be a deeper problem, maybe we need to look back to STEM as the core starting point of this all and overcome the prejudices here. Let’s totally overlook the myth that STEM is for boys and women should do women topics, we should not even need to class anything as a women’s or men’s topic- equality and diversity comes into this yet again.

Sarah Andresen, Head of People Science, Sage People said: “With few women in leadership positions there is a scarcity of mentoring and networking opportunities for them in the earlier career stages.

“Thus, women have limited options to build relationships with today’s leaders to enable their careers to progress.”

A government report focusing on the digital skills report also mentions the lack of diversity among both computer science/ IT graduates and STEM careers in which the report states that role models are an effective way to inspire females to go into tech careers.

The gender imbalance starts from young females who decide to not study STEM subjects in school as it is perceived as a male-oriented industry. This imbalance continues in the workplace up to the point that even women with STEM careers do not work in the industry.

The tech industry needs to pay more attention to the issue of diversity in the workplace. If the simple fact that women are equal to men is not good enough for them then perhaps the financial incentive will be what finally ends the ongoing male domination.

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