Tech is not the only industry blighted by gender discrimination, but it is certainly a key culprit.

It was chilling to read of the allegations against Activision Blizzard last month, which claim women in the company have been subject to sexual harassment, unequal pay, and retaliation. It hit me particularly hard because it’s telling that these prejudices still remain in tech, and because the ‘frat boy’ culture label rings some bells from my own experience.

However, across tech, women are rising to the top, and the fact that this Activision Blizzard news is, well – news, is significant. Employees are starting to redefine what their businesses stand for. They’re fighting for their voices and they’re being heard. Business leaders need to sit up and pay attention to what’s happening and fast; the world is changing and today, every voice is one that could have power.

Frat clubs in tech are over – and those hanging on to them will see themselves framed in ferocious articles, which pore over their many deeds of misconduct.

So how did we get here, and what must businesses do now to help break tech out of its misogynistic tendencies?

Busting the male-coder myth

Popularised by pop culture in the ilk of Mr. Robot, The Matrix’s Neo, and – let’s be honest – Mark Zuckerberg , the image of tech has been of a geeky guy in a dark bedroom, coding all day and night.

Recently, this bedtime story has started to fall apart at the seams. This is for two good reasons. The first – girls can, and do, code. Just look at the 450,000 girls in Britain who have participated in programs with Girls Who Code.

The second – tech doesn’t just need coders. It doesn’t even just need computer experts. And it certainly doesn’t just need men. Every skill is needed in technology, and every possible skill set can be accommodated within this sector. As much as with any business, people hire people – so emotional intelligence is key. We need organisers, creatives, project managers, HR, recruitment, designers, ideas people, realists, finance skills, operational know-how, managers – and on and on and on.

It’s up to business leaders to make this clear to the wider market, and to focus on hiring the right talent, rather than the right ‘fit’.

Role models

When I started my career, almost all my seniors were men. I started off in hedge funds and venture capital, where there was little margin for error and a culture already steeped in work-hard-play-hard toxicity.

Now, at Access Intelligence, our board is majority women. This is a pattern I’m beginning to see across the industry – tech firms are finally seeing recruitment initiatives that began long ago pay off in their leadership teams.

But I strongly feel that time should no longer be a limiting factor. Businesses worrying about diversity now cannot afford to wait until their graduates are in the c-suite. Regardless of gender, age, or any other demographic we might fall into – bright and capable people should be facilitated to progress in their career rapidly. Businesses who are truly future-facing are dropping the hierarchy in favour of finding the right person for the role.

It is damning to see any company still engaging in tired, sexist behaviours. Pioneering businesses are diversifying employee skill sets and promoting those with talent over those they’re familiar with. I hope that stories like the allegations at Activision Blizzard become rarer; and I hope that women thinking of joining the tech industry realise that today, those practices are no longer the norm. For now, it’s up to businesses to prove it.

Joanna ArnoldAbout the author

Joanna Arnold joined Access Intelligence  as COO in 2011 and became CEO in 2014. Under Joanna’s leadership, AI has become a business known for its commitment to using technology to transform the way in which journalists, politicians and online influencers access trusted, expert insight.

Her vision is a world of open and effective communication that tackles head on issues from fake news to information overload.

Before Access Intelligence, Joanna’s career included a combination of investment roles and ten years of M&A experience in the software sector. Alongside her role at AI, she is a non-executive director at Trailight Ltd, a compliance SaaS platform, solving regulatory challenges for Financial Services companies. Joanna graduated from Edinburgh University in 2004.