Muslim woman working from home, flexible working

Diversity has been a historical challenge for the tech industry.

For example, a recent survey from mThree of 270 US business leaders found that 68 per cent felt there was a lack of diversity in their tech workforce. Nevertheless, female representation is on the rise and flexible working, such as freelancing, will be key for encouraging more women to join this profession. Here Ashmita Das, CEO of open talent platform Kolabtree, discusses why flexible working is key for improving female representation in tech.

If you were to search the internet for ‘tech’ jobs, you may be overwhelmed by the variety of job roles that exist. For example, lists over 25 jobs in its ‘information technology’ section alone, including cyber security analyst, information systems manager, IT consultant, software engineer, and web developer. Considering also that businesses in most sectors can benefit from some form of tech nowadays, it’s clear that the opportunities are many.

However, the tech workforce has historically lacked the same diversity. For example, a recent report from Tech Nation revealed that for every 100 people working in a tech job in the UK only 25 are women, an alarming statistic. Nevertheless, if we look at the broader picture, diversity is continuing to improve, and I don’t see reason for doom and gloom. On the contrary, there are now more opportunities than ever for aspiring female specialists.

New opportunities

The pandemic transformed the way that businesses operate and how many of us work. Remote and hybrid working became necessities, while companies’ HR policies and attitudes towards recruitment shifted to keep up with the evolving landscape — changes that show no signs of stopping. This shift has required companies to invest more in software and communications technology, and many are digitising at an increasing rate.

The opportunities for tech professionals arising from this shift are twofold. Firstly, it means that tech skills are now in very high demand, as IT experts are needed to develop, set up, implement and maintain these systems. Secondly, the fact that companies are now more equipped to work with external, remote professionals means that tech freelancing is a strong career option.

Freelancing offers an alternative route into the tech industry. As well as this, it provides several advantages that can help attract more and more female tech professionals and help them advance their careers.

Newfound flexibility

Control is a powerful motivator that’s important for life satisfaction and fulfilment, so being able to determine your own work and work-life balance is an attractive proposition. Interestingly, over 90 per cent of 542 freelance scientists that we surveyed as part of a social science research project said that flexibility was highly important to them. Freelancing gives people complete control over their schedule, pay, and the projects they work on, so only they are in charge of their careers.

On the other hand, traditional employment — having a permanent role in one organisation — can be very inflexible in terms of hours, so finding time for commitments outside the workplace can be a challenge. For example, if children need dropping off at school each morning, a typical 9-5 schedule can make it harder to accommodate. Meanwhile, freelancing gives skilled professionals the ability to work when and for how long they like and take on other responsibilities that life presents.

Career progression

Raising a family is one of the most rewarding things in the world, but it can sometimes be a hurdle for career progression. One example is parental leave, which often involves a complete severance from work for several months. Returning to work afterwards can be daunting and, when they do, some employees find themselves working a reduced number of hours. According to research by Ipsos Mori, almost three in ten women (29 per cent) thought taking maternity leave had a negative impact on their career, while less than half the number of men (13 per cent) noticed the same effect following paternity leave.  Therefore, there is a clear gender gap in perceptions towards the impact of parental leave.

Meanwhile freelance female tech specialists have the option of continuing to work during those first nine months, at a time and frequency that suits. Furthermore, when the usual parental leave period is over, the freelancer can increase their hours and take on more projects — although working and having a young baby will require some adjustments!

Building up experience

Another advantage of freelancing is having the power to expand your repertoire beyond what’s possible in a full-time permanent job. Traditional employers train staff to become skilled at their specific roles, for example maintaining IT systems in healthcare facilities or maintaining cybersecurity in financial firms. Therefore, in-house experts are often only exposed to the relevant skills required for that role, with limited opportunity to diversify.

However, freelancers can carefully select their projects and gain exposure to a wider array of experience. For example, a computer network expert that’s worked for schools has the freedom to work on a completely different project, setting up or improving a system in another field entirely, or maybe work for a start-up. The new projects are still within the freelancer’s skillset but will raise new opportunities to expand their reach.

Getting started

For aspiring freelance technology experts, becoming an external consultant can be as simple as registering with a platform and creating a profile. Once registered, the freelancer can upload a CV detailing the various projects they’ve worked on and set a desired rate. From, there, they can bid for projects that appeal to them and submit a proposal on how they would offer their services.

As an open talent platform targeting scientific and technology specialists, Kolabtree has over 15,000 experts registered across 175 countries. Its tech specialists have experience working in fields including cyber security, computer and data security, computer networks, wireless communication, computer software, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Why not take the first step on your freelancing journey today? Simply visit, click on ‘Join as expert’, and start browsing projects.

Ashmita DasAbout the author

Ashmita Das is co-founder and CEO of Kolabtree, the world’s largest platform for freelance scientists. Ashmita founded Kolabtree to level the playing field in science, by helping small and medium-sized businesses access the skills and knowledge that they need and has been instrumental in its rapid growth since its founding in 2015. The platform now has over 15,000 freelancers on its books.