The International Day of Women and Girls in Science presents an opportunity for organisations in the technology industry to reflect on their efforts to correct gender imbalances.

Fortunately, the industry does seem to be starting to move in the right direction. ONS statistics from last year reveal that the number of women working in technology has continued to increase, with 31% of UK tech jobs now held by women. While the industry is not there yet, it is starting to show signs of improvement.

With that in mind, a host of tech experts have shared their thoughts on the importance of encouraging young females to pursue STEM subjects in school, and some of the stereotypes that need to be banished in the sector:

Diverse hiring is now a necessity

Edwina Murphy, Director, Public Cloud Management, Sungard AS, believes International Day of Women and Girls in Science is an opportunity for companies to reflect on their commitment to inclusion. She said, “Companies should use International Day of Women and Girls in Science Day to consider if they are on track to meet their diversity and inclusion goals. Self-reflection is key, so companies should consult their employees on a consistent basis, asking them what they think needs to change to make the workplace more inclusive. Business leaders must also remove unconscious biases – a far-reaching societal issue that is certainly not exclusive to the tech industry. This starts with the hiring process, removing biases by ensuring that there is a diverse group of interviewers in charge of decision- making. As such, the technology industry can start to improve on its gender imbalance issues and more women will be encouraged to pursue a career in the field.”

Dr. Lucy Mackillop, Chief Medical Officer, Sensyne Health, takes a similar stance and also believes a diverse hiring process is crucial. She argues, “There is no doubt the life sciences industry is diversifying, but there is still room for improvement. At Sensyne Health, we have strong ambitions to provide more support to women in these roles, we have a huge part to play in diversifying the science and technology industry. I believe this begins with more diverse hiring, as businesses focus on employing individuals with different views and experiences to ensure their work and workplaces are as inclusive as possible. With a diverse workforce we will be able to drive innovation across all spectrums of healthcare, helping to discover treatments for illness and disease that affect a broader range of individuals, regardless of their geographies, ethnicities, gender and ages. This in turn will enable us to be part of enabling better patient care for all.”

Early education is key

EJ Cay, Vice President, UK and Ireland, Genesys, believes young girls should be encouraged to participate in STEM subjects as early as possible. “International Day of Women and Girls in Science Day is important to me as it’s a reminder that gender equality in these fields is essential for building a better future. Without more women and girls in STEM, the world will continue to be designed by and for men, while the potential of girls and women will remain untapped. As such, we need to encourage women and girls to both study these subjects and transition into the workforce. We must also create places for women that ensure their careers are not strewn with obstacles and enable them to build a work-life balance that fulfils. This will open so many doors for other women to be inspired by technology in the same way I have.”

Karen Worstell, Senior Cybersecurity Strategist, VMware, concurs, saying educational institutions must make STEM subjects accessible to everyone. She explains, “When I was determining what type of career I wanted to pursue, I was lucky to have access to educational and extracurricular resources that made it possible for me to be at the forefront of an emerging field like cybersecurity. For future generations of women in STEM to help break the glass ceiling, we need educational institutions to foster this kind of support and access to young people across all socio-economic levels regardless of gender, ethnicity, or geography. Businesses must also recognise that the pipeline of tech talent at the moment is fragile and more must be done to hire, retain and develop talent.”

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Changing the perception of technology workers

Mairead O’Connor, Exec for Cloud Engineering, AND Digital, says there is evidence of progress being made and that the perception of technology workers is slowly shifting. She says, “The tech industry is still very much misunderstood: the age-old image of the solo coder working in a basement is far from reality. The most underrepresented skills needed are teamwork, communication, creativity and pragmatic problem-solving. I’d love to see businesses understand more what they need from their tech roles, and work hard to get the right people in them. A computer science degree can be a great route into a tech career, but it’s definitely not the only route. I studied sciences at university, but some of the most insightful technologists I know have studied humanities, or learned their skills outside of university.”

Lori MacVittie, Principal Technical Evangelist at the Office of the CTO, F5, agrees and puts forward that fundamentally, STEM has a brand problem. “There is a stereotype of the type of women who work in these [STEM] roles. We might think of introverts and people that wear all black and no heels, but that’s just not the case! Whatever kind of woman you are, what you wear or what personality you have, is irrelevant. There’s a role for you. And this is a message I am trying to promote amongst my peers.”

Roisin Wherry, Data & Technology Specialist, Grayce, agrees and also recognises the importance of nurturing diverse talent in the field through mentoring schemes, saying, “Being a self-taught female coder, I wholly sympathise with the ‘pale, male, and stale’ stereotype that has long impaired the tech industry.

“With this in mind, I advocate others to create space for a diverse range of people in the tech and data sector. These can either be through peer-to-peer support or helping those exploring the industry develop more confidently. In my current role, I hold regular coffee catchups, social activities, study groups, coding clubs, and chat on Slack. This creates a community of support where Analysts of all levels help each other with client interviews, technical advice, help people settle in, and even deliver technical training.”

Be brave and be heard

Caroline Grey, Chief Customer Officer, UiPath, concludes the overall sentiment by saying her message on International Women and Girls in Science Day is, “Girls, take a risk, put your hand up in class and ask your question if something is not clear and stay open to giving and receiving feedback. Later, when you grow up, apply for that job you’ve always wanted but are not sure you are good enough for. Let’s all enjoy pursuing the opportunities that open up with being women in tech. We deserve our place. The authority gap is real but the movement to closing it is picking up. Be proud of your diverse self. We need you!”