By Pooja Malpani, Head of Engineering, Bloomberg Media

woman wearing a white lab coat working on an engineering project, International Women in Engineering DayIncreasing gender diversity is one of the most important issues that needs to be addressed in engineering.

We are starkly reminded on a daily basis that, despite making some progress, the industry today still faces significant challenges in nurturing a truly diverse workforce.

As recently as 2018, research showed that just 12.3% of the UK’s engineering workforce were women. That figure has been far too low for far too long.

It is well recognised across businesses that having inclusive and diverse teams leads to better financial performance, happier work environments, and more innovation – the lifeblood of technology organisations. Women can also benefit massively from the technology industry, whether as consumers or employees.

Technology and engineering jobs are so pervasive today, there’s plenty of scope for women — or any underrepresented group — to work on something they are truly passionate about. Just as women should consider positions in this industry, openings need to be far more accessible and more inclusive.

This chicken and egg stand-off must change so the industry does not miss out on the benefits of greater gender diversity, and so women are not missing out on careers in this vibrant field.

Challenging the norm

The first step to solving any problem is to acknowledge it. It’s easy to blame the talent pipeline for the lack of women in technology roles, but it is critical to be more creative in driving change and encouraging more women to get interested in careers in engineering, irrespective of their backgrounds. At the same time, we must continue increasing representation by focusing on the talented women who already are interested in or work in our industry.

There are already initiatives that encourage such practices. Blind recruitment – where you limit unconscious bias by removing identification details – training, upskilling, and internship programmes are all vital in driving positive outcomes in terms of increasing gender diversity.

But, this needs to go even further. Women who are already established in the engineering and technology sectors will indirectly inspire the next generation of female tech leaders as role models and can also directly play a huge role within organisations as mentors to those entering the industry. Women in technology can also have a strong influence on the market too. For example, in the media industry, women are key consumers, so, when there are more women working in the industry, they can have a better platform to make positive change.

Enacting change from the inside

Challenging any traditional groupthink and inherent bias will be fundamental in creating a more inclusive culture. As we look to change the face of the industry, the diversity challenge should not be limited to just numbers. It’s no use having a business that has a 50-50 gender split, but fewer women in leadership roles. It only clouds the overarching issue.

Restricting cognitive diversity, or diversity of thought, is as much a barrier to commercial goals as it is to creating an inclusive and open culture. So, there are no excuses in failing to invest in a diverse workforce.

It’s not enough for organisations to continue to hire from the same pool of candidates: it’s clear that this approach needs to change. Businesses are making headway in having open conversations, but they must now look to nurture talent from as broad a spectrum as possible to help eliminate barriers.

Now is the time for action

The time for words is over and industries such as media and technology need to take action to address gender diversity.

Businesses can, and should, do more. There are many ways to take proactive action towards gender imbalance – but it shouldn’t be viewed as a philanthropic activity.

Diversity brings new ideas, innovation, and thinking to an organisation, making it a commercially-sound proposition. As we reflect on how far we’ve come in addressing the industry’s gender imbalances, we must also look to the road ahead.

About the author

Pooja MalpaniPooja Malpani is the Head of Engineering for Bloomberg Media. She leads the engineering team responsible for consumer media, marketing and data visualization.

This includes supporting, consumer mobile applications, smart television apps, other connected devices, as well as the systems that deliver market-moving news, data, audio and video to consumers and syndication partners. Her group also manages Bloomberg’s marketing web sites, as well as various Bloomberg Philanthropies sites.

Prior to Bloomberg, Pooja was at HBO Digital Products, where she led the Purchase and Identity engineering teams for HBO Go and HBO Now. Her group was responsible for Subscription Management, including Auth, Direct Commerce and Partner Commerce across web, mobile and connected devices. Her group managed HBO’s streaming user services, including scaling for high traffic shows like ‘Game of Thrones’.

Prior to joining HBO, Pooja spent 9 years at Microsoft, leading the engineering efforts on a variety of features for Skype for Business and Skype for consumers.

Pooja is an ambassador for women in technology and is actively involved in engineering initiatives related to diversity.

Pooja graduated from Indiana University with a Masters in Computer Science.

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