Article by Nerys Mutlow, Evangelist in the Chief Innovation Office at ServiceNow

Girls in tech, STEMThe technology sector has made improvements in gender representation in recent decades.

There were 326,000 women working in IT roles across the UK in 2020, according to analysis from BCS, meaning that more women are making up the specialist IT workforce than ever seen previously. Yet despite years of progress towards workplace equality, women continue to be woefully underrepresented. A mere 19% of employees in the tech sector are women.

In fact, getting women into technology or STEM careers in the first place continues to be a challenge. According to the latest Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) data, fewer than 1 in 5 computing and engineering technology students are female. These figures indicate that the industry still has a long way to go. Getting more women on STEM courses has been a hot topic in the technology industry for the best part of a decade, with public and private sector initiatives aiming to increase numbers. But, the industry, and the people in it, need to do more.

An open-minded approach to recruitment

All companies have core values that lie at the heart their business, but it’s important to continuously introduce fresh perspectives. If the tech sector is going to improve workplace representation, employers must ensure they give both male and female candidates equal opportunities. Also, if they are going to develop a diverse and modern workplace, they must embrace an open-minded approach when it comes to hiring. Rather than simply going through the motions and hiring the same types of candidates, employers should look to bring people from different backgrounds with a variety of different perspectives into the office.

Not only will this create a more inclusive workplace, but it will also drive innovation and creativity, leading to a greater chance of success. According to a McKinsey report, companies with more than 30% of female executives are more likely to outperform businesses with fewer women. Adopting an open-minded recruitment approach will also widen the talent pool for employers as it will encourage them to hire based on potential, rather than relying on proven experience. This approach subscribes to the belief that talent can come from anywhere, regardless of background.

It’s not just about STEM skills

Once an open-minded recruitment process has been implemented, tech companies will begin to feel the benefits of a workforce with a more varied set of skills. Traditionally, companies implementing STEM initiatives have often placed too much emphasis on maths-based skills, such as coding and programming. Whilst coding is still important, today’s technology has made it easier than it’s ever been. Polished teaching methods and universal access to development tools have made it much more accessible. On top of coding, the modern tech industry is crying out for empathetic and creative skills, such as user experience design and critical problem solving.

Creativity and problem solving have never been more crucial to technology than they are right now, with concepts like design thinking requiring us to empathise and understand the challenges faced by end users. Once you truly understand the end user’s perspective then you can design solutions to meet any challenges at hand which will undoubtedly require technology in some shape or form. However, if you start with the technology, then you can become constrained by it when solving complex challenges. By contrast, starting with the problem, leveraging strong domain business skills, communication skills and empathy can lead you to design truly innovative and market leading solutions.

Showcasing creative and design thinking, as opposed to traditional coding, will challenge the outdated stereotype of technology as the domain of the male coder. By dispelling the archaic narrative of a mathematical, male-orientated environment, young women will feel empowered to choose STEM subjects at school and embark upon careers within the technology sector. And by showcasing the creativity and collaboration within today’s technology industry, we can bury the stereotypes and inspire more women to enter the sector. Perhaps we should all be widely adopting the term ‘STEAM’ now to put an equal emphasis on the artistic skills needed for a career in technology.

It’s time for tech employers to take heed and address the gender divide that continues to persist within the industry. Adopting an open-minded approach to recruitment will create the platform for an inclusive workplace that incorporates a diverse set of perspectives. This will introduce a new, modern way of working that places empathetic skills at the forefront of technology. Only then can we begin to smash down the male-dominated stereotypes of what it means to succeed in the industry and pave the way for the next generation of female leaders.

About the author

Nerys Mutlow Nerys Mutlow works in the Chief Innovation Office at ServiceNow and covers the Europe, Middle East and Africa regions. She has a breadth of technical, business and leadership experience gained over a 20 year+ career with variety of companies including Xerox, Thales and Fujitsu. She has held senior EMEA business, consulting and technical roles and is consistently recognised for her technical aptitude, business understanding and focus on driving value and innovation for her customers. Nerys also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Information Systems Management. She is a recognised thought leader and has published and contributed to a number of digital publications and blogs. Supporting women into technology is particularly important to Nerys and she actively supports many STEM initiatives.

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