women in IT
Image via Pixabay
Its 2017 and Britain has recently celebrated a record number of female MPS winning seats in the UK general election.

Women head up the Tate Britain, National Gallery and BAFTA, and across the country more women are getting accepted into university than their male contemporaries. However, when it comes to IT, the statistics look very different.

Women are wildly underrepresented in the IT world and with a shortage of female employees in managerial and technical roles, the industry is suffering. TechCrunch reported last year that only five per cent of leadership positions in the corporate tech industry are held by women and this is set to decline even further as the percentage of women in the US computing industry is projected to drop from 24 per cent to 22 per cent by 2025.  Even tech giants like Google have struggled to address this inequality with the company admitting that only 17 per cent of its technical workforce are female.

Alongside the glaring benefits of a more equal workforce such as more diverse viewpoints and wider skills sets leading to better business decisions, the most frustrating issue at play here is that there is already a dearth of talent in IT which desperately needs to be filled. The Guardian projects that if the current trajectory continues, there will be one million more jobs in the industry than graduates to fill them by 2020.

Cyber security in particular has been hit hard, with a decline in skilled workers that is set to leave the industry 1.8 million short by 2022 according to a Frost and Sullivan report, and in the current climate, this is an area that cannot be ignored. By encouraging women to pursue these roles and consider IT as a viable career option, this demand could easily be met and the industry would benefit as a result – after all, women use technology as much as men so to use their skills in innovation will widen the market and help to fill product gaps for female consumers.

However, moving towards a more gender equal workforce in IT industries is easier said than done. Widespread change is required in the perception and attitude towards women working in tech, with many females facing unfair stereotyping and discrimination for choosing what is perceived by many in society to be a male career. We see that girls are less inclined to pursue technical subjects from a young age as although 57 per cent of US college students are female, 82 per cent of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) are male and this comes down to education, with a shortage of female STEM teachers and role models to influence students.

The women that do end up in a technical careers often face greater challenges than their male counterparts as they struggle to fit in as a minority in the workplace. It is also speculated that in general, female employees are less boastful of their contributions, letting male colleagues step in and take credit for their work in a professional environment, meaning that their victories go unnoticed by management and they are less likely to be promoted.

It is clear that there is a need for wider societal change to redress the gender balance in the tech workplace. We may be wise to take tips from countries like Russia who boast high percentages of females in technology roles compared to the rest of the world and put this down to strong role models, a gender neutral school curriculum and an attitude towards science as a national priority, and an area that all citizens can be proud to work in. However, there are already movements across the UK to move towards a more equal attitude towards tech jobs, with the Girl Guides pioneering new badges for coding and computer skills for its members and companies offering a wide range of  IT positions for girls considering a career in the industry.

About the author:

Rowan Chernin writes about Tech and outdoor activities including a life-long obsession with the English coast line.