International Women’s Day provides the perfect opportunity to not only look at the incredible accomplishments of women around the globe, but also look into what specific challenges still exist and, most importantly, what more can be done to continue breaking down these barriers.

One ongoing battle that is still very much being fought in 2024 is the fight for women in tech. Despite the number of women increasing, the industry remains very much male-dominated and the effect this has on those looking to get into the tech industry or remain in it is severe. For example, due to a lack of women in senior positions, technology remains one of the sectors with the biggest gender pay gap in the UK, currently standing at 16% compared to the national average of 11.6%. This disparity also means that the 2022 tech layoffs disproportionately affected women, with women accounting for 69.2% of those laid off.

Start them early

In their formative years, women are exposed to gender bias from numerous sources including educational institutions and the media, all of which have huge impacts on the studies and hobbies they decide to pursue and the subsequent careers they enter. As such, it’s vital that the influences they experience as children and teenagers is a positive one and,  in the context of women in tech, one that encourages a genuine interest in STEM subjects.

“Women are often born and raised into a paradigm that tech is not for them”,

Expands Michal Lewy-Harush, CIO at Aqua Security.

“We need to challenge that, beginning in education. Special programmes in schools that encourage girls to take an interest in technology are incredibly valuable, and individuals can also make a big difference by acting as role models. I would encourage women in tech to get out there when they can and show the younger generation what’s possible”.

Girija Kolagada, VP, Engineering at Progress, furthers:

“Young girls aspiring to enter STEM should remember that these fields are not limited by gender, race or background. STEM welcomes diversity and their dreams should never be confined by stereotypes. They should be encouraged to embrace their curiosity, work hard and persist in their studies. A supportive community of women in STEM exists that can be leveraged and can make a significant impact”.

Good ol’ role models

It’s been said time and again that role models play a crucial role in bringing women into the technology space and, as such, it’s easy to get complacent about this concept. However, role models are regularly brought up for good reason – they make a difference! Without women in the industry demonstrating that it’s not just possible to break into the sector but to thrive in it, the idea of technology as a ‘boys club’ will continue to be reinforced.

Svenja de Vos, CTO at Leaseweb, describes the lack of female representation as a “double-edged sword which works to perpetuate the tech industry as a male-dominated space. When people do not have mentors or role models to look up to they are less likely to be able to envisage themselves doing that job. And, while there are numerous men in the tech sector, female role models are few and far between. In fact, a 2023 study revealed that 92% of 18–25-year-old women could not name one famous woman in the industry.

“To change perceptions, more female role models are needed who, supported by practical initiatives like training, open days and internship opportunities, can help to create a more compelling image for the tech industry as a sector that’s fun and rewarding to work in. This is extra important when you consider that in 2024 everything is technology!”

Are we failing to retain women in tech?

Lack of representation (along with a plethora of other factors) makes it hard for women to break into technology and therefore a lot of attention is paid, rightly so, to bringing new women into the industry.

But, what about after they break in?

Although many of us would like to think that once a woman overcomes all of the many barriers and unconscious biases in her way and enters the world of technology, the story ends with a happily ever after. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

Samantha Thorne, Head of People Policy & Global Mobility at Node4, explains that, while women are estimated to hold only 26% of technology jobs:

“This doesn’t stem solely from a lack of women entering the industry but is exacerbated by the fact that those that are encouraged in are soon chased out by the male-dominated culture. New research reveals that one in three women contemplated leaving their tech jobs in 2023 and a quarter of those that did, left the industry for good”.

To not just bring women into the tech industry, but keep them there, substantial change needs to occur. Upper management needs to make decisions and implement policies that foster an inclusive culture.

Oylum Tagmac, Senior Director, International Partner Management at Commvault, highlights that:

“It’s crucial to support women in taking short career pauses and provide re-entry programs upon their return. Embracing flexible work hours and hybrid models can significantly facilitate this transition, offering unprecedented opportunities for women to thrive in their careers while managing familial obligations”.

Lead by example

As it’s well reported that women are underrepresented in the tech industry, it will come as little or no surprise to most that they are also underrepresented in leadership roles within the sector.

A 2024 report demonstrates that while the industry average for women in tech is 26%, they represent 32.8% of entry-level positions in computer science-related jobs and only 10.9% of CEO or senior leadership positions.

“To accelerate more women into senior positions, we need to understand and change current behaviour patterns”,

Suggests Karine Calvet, VP Partners EMEA at AVEVA.

“There are some core differences in the way women and men lead. Men seem to trust each other more spontaneously and easily, whereas women tend to be more collaborative but remain hesitant to speak up, meaning it often takes women more effort to gain trust and be listened to. Often, women must also prove they are more efficient than their male counterparts in order to win a role.

“By understanding these differences, organisations can take action to recognise biases and provide better support to help female employees to reach their full potential”.

As Caroline Mantle​ Strategic Alliance Manager at Six Degrees concludes:

“It is only by embracing diversity in all its forms that we foster innovation, collaboration and belonging at the heart of everything we do”