Business inequality, gender gap vector concept with man at advantage. Symbol of discrimination, different opportunity, unequal treatment. salary. Eps10 illustration.

Why tackling gender bias will help pave the way for future tech stars

Article by Anila Siraj, Managing Director, Alternative Fuels Strategy at Kalibrate

Business inequality, gender gap vector concept with man at advantage. Symbol of discrimination, different opportunity, unequal treatment. salary. Eps10 illustration.Being a woman and working in the technology industry, it has been a task to be seen, heard and trusted.

I have had to work harder and shout louder to prove myself as an expert in my role. Currently, only 30% of data roles are held by women and change is needed rapidly. Diversity is essential for businesses as they promote teamwork and allow collaboration with more innovation and productivity. But significant steps still need to be taken towards diversity in the tech industry.

Beginning in the fuel retailing industry in the 90s – I’d often be the only woman in the room, and I’d feel that everyone would already have reduced assumptions and expectations of me than they would of my male counterparts. Thankfully, I now have a career that I’m proud of, but it’s time I – and women in similar fortunate positions – pave the way towards a world where this industry isn’t stereotyped.

But we still have a long way to go, women hold only 34% of entry-level engineering and product roles. Prejudices mean that entering these roles is often a significant task for women, clearly contributing to the uneven gender split. What’s troubling is that this means half of our society (women) aren’t accurately represented in the products that we design and code.

My lived experience of prejudices I faced now means I can make it easier for the next generation of tech and data focused women when they enter the industry. I know that if the industry was more welcoming, it would in turn encourage more girls to take up careers in STEM. Doing so means we must squash any barriers impeding women.

Break the bias

Gender bias remains in day-to-day life as well as in the workplace, and this presents issues such as unequal pay and roles within a company. Bias can be unconscious or unintentional.

Unintentional bias can be changed through earlier education on sexism whereas intentional bias is much more difficult to rewire. Bias is a constant battle in the tech space and can prevent women feeling comfortable in their jobs. 72% of women in tech have worked at a company where “bro culture” is pervasive and are 4X more likely than men to see gender bias as an obstacle to promotion. Instead, women should feel they can reach a promotion without barriers and not face sexism in the workplace at all.

Strategies, including training and education must be put in place to ensure women don’t feel unworthy in an environment that needs them.

Paving the way for change

The availability of STEM based learning for girls has become more accessible and many organisations are helping to drive this change by launching initiatives to encourage more girls into the industry. These are all great steps in erasing bias, but we must still acknowledge that these biases exist.

Often, these conversations aren’t happening, even where females are on the board. This is because leaders believe having some women in senior leadership roles eradicates the problem. And they need to understand that it certainly helps, but it doesn’t remove the problem.  We still need to make sure we are raising awareness on the topic as frequently as we can. Because no matter the ratio of men to women in boardrooms, if we aren’t welcoming a pipeline of young female talent, any progress will eventually backtrack.

To combat this and to ensure we create a better future we must be inclusive of diverse members in the workplace and celebrate those that succeed. After all, the CEO of YouTube is female, and Cisco was co-founded by women – among many more successful entrepreneurs and CEOs such as those of General Motors and Oracle.

More women now hold leadership positions than ever before, but moving forward, we need to create a safe environment where women can be inspired to be innovative and creative as well as feeling secure enough to build on their skills in data and technology in order to thrive. Support, such as flexible working is also essential in all aspects of working life. All these elements will ultimately achieve the end goal of debunking gender roles for good.

Celebrating successes

In a world where gender bias is very prevalent, celebrating small successes in the industry will go a long way. We’re in a modern era, where gender bias needs to become a thing of the past. We must actively strive for roles that aren’t typically deemed as ‘women’s roles’ and show that we can succeed in our careers. Women bring excellent leadership, skills, and perspectives to teams. It’s time we collate the efforts of everyone to break this bias, not just women. The results that follow will speak for themselves!