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March 7, 2018updated 08 Mar 2018 4:34pm

International Women’s Day: The Tech Sector Speaks Up

Talk around gender inequality among the technology sector has been an ongoing fight for a long time, but this year International Women's Day is all about pushing to make this change and encourage more women in the workplace.

By April Slattery

Tomorrow marks International Women’s Day, celebrating the success and achievements of women all over the world. This year’s theme is #PressforProgress after the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report last year revealed that the gender parity is still over 200 years away.

The gender gap has been a more spoken topic than any other in the recent years, where all industries have seen women step up and take on the ‘male world’. Every industry has faced the revelation of women making their mark, but especially the technology industry.

Even as recently as today, Tech City UK announced new businesses joining its Future Fifty programme in which a large majority were founded or co-founded by women. Although closing the gap completely is not a job to be done overnight, there has been a good start made to the race and International Women’s Day hopes for the change to happen much quicker than 200 years’ time.

The hardest part to ensuring the gender parity is tackled is encouraging young girls to step up into the industry, but with technology being one of the most male dominated it makes it harder to breakthrough this ideology.

“I believe in engaging girls in STEM education at an early age by making an effort to instill excitement about science and math early on. Getting kids excited at an early age is very important, be it through our education system or any other means,” Rashi Khurana, Director of Engineering at Shutterstock, said. “Too many women drop out of these majors early on because of the lack of excitement. In the tech industry, since it’s so heavily male-dominated, women will face the extra onus of proving themselves. If we want to break the gender wall, we need to consistently bring our share of hard work to the table and responsibility.”

International Women’s Day: The Tech Sector Speaks Up

Encouraging girls at a young age on what career path to take is important.

A study recently published by Stanford University revealed that many tech companies house a ‘chilly’ atmosphere, discouraging women from pursuing a career in the field. However, inspiring women of the industry believe engagement is the key to successfully building up the number of women in the field. This is done not only by encouragement educationally, but by what is portrayed by those working in the industry.

“Visibility is crucial,” Lynn Collier, COO UK&I of Hitachi Vantara, said. “Women in positions of leadership within technology companies of all sizes need to shout about their achievements, position themselves as thought leaders within the industry and inspire their peers and the future generations of women to seek opportunities in tech and working with tech.

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“Encouraging women to follow technology career paths often feels like an uphill struggle, but promoting a nurturing and comfortable work environment for all employees is crucial for diversity to flourish and businesses to reap the benefits of this. Keeping young women engaged and interested in careers in technology isn’t something that can begin in the workplace – it’s about breaking-down misconceptions early and educating women about what a career in tech might entail.

In cybersecurity, females account for just 11% of the workforce according to McAfee. Therefore it is crucial to enlighten the young girls of today that the tech world is just as much a part of theirs, as it is men’s.

To change the future women must not only empower more young girls to thrive in the industry, but offer help first hand to ensure the right steps are taking to move forward.

Anjali Arora, chief product officer at Rocket Software believes women need to empower themselves before facing up to the challenges in the workplace. Arora said: “If I were to offer some of my own advice, it would be for women to prioritise and learn to say ‘No’ more. But also get out of your comfort zone and network; make connections everywhere you can. Find a mentor, coach or sponsor, hopefully someone who is also a woman. Next up – and this is a hard one, especially for women – but make sure you ask for the raise and for the promotion you deserve.”

International Women’s Day: The Tech Sector Speaks Up

Examples like Ginni Rometty, CEO, IBM encourage women to move into the industry.

Collectively women in the technology industry pointed to visibility of successful women and support would engage young girls into the industry in the future.

“One of the simplest, but most effective, ways to encourage women to progress in the workplace is to set up and support employee run-community groups. This group represents all areas of the business, at all levels and share their own personal career stories,” Chatelle Lynch, Chief Human Resources Officer at McAfee, said.

Clare Martin, Director of Talent at Media iQ echoed this and said:“I feel it’s important for women to build networks for themselves and seek out mentors and sponsors across the industry and their own companies. As leaders, we have a responsibility to influence other women to be powerful and confident.”

Looking to the future of women in the workplace, let alone in the technology industry it is about embarking on the journey in the early stages and turning the industry on its head to open to women as equal as men.

“While there is still more to be done to erase gender inequality, I strongly believe that International Women’s Day plays an important role in promoting our female role models and reflecting on how far we’ve come across all sectors,” Julia Fraser, Vice President Sales, UK & Ireland, CenturyLink.

“The technology industry has often been viewed as male dominated, but times are changing, and traditional perceptions are being challenged. We have a growing number of female roles models in this space that are inspiring women to pursue careers in technology.”

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