Fostering female tech talent: the power of inclusive company narratives

Cheerful young African American woman using laptop in blurry office with double exposure of futuristic network interface and planet hologram. Concept of internet and communication. Toned image, woman in tech

By Lara Dobson, Global Director, Market Strategy, Staffbase

According to a report from the ONS, 31% of technology jobs in the UK are currently held by women. Despite this figure gradually increasing year-on-year, gender diversity hasn’t changed significantly.

In fact, women make up just 10% of technology leadership roles and the majority believe that companies are not doing enough to promote female participation in technology.

The issue stems from the lack of opportunities afforded to girls in primary, secondary schooling and vocational training, resulting in the low uptake of IT subjects throughout all stages of education. While solving the problem relies on rethinking the current education system, companies themselves also play an important role in ensuring women stay and progress in technology careers.

To retain and build diverse female talent, businesses need to mirror the inclusivity they seek to achieve in the stories they tell about their company. A lot of this comes down to effective communication.

So, how can internal communicators create workplaces where female employees feel heard and where their stories are shared in an authentic and empathetic way? And what can they do to reach female talent?

Inclusive internal comms

In a difficult labour market, attracting and retaining talent is more important than ever. As more organisations refocus their efforts to prioritise employee experience, all internal communicators, including business leaders, need to hold themselves accountable for creating inclusive environments and equal opportunities.

But first, it’s crucial they educate themselves on the issues impacting women and girls today - including everything from childcare, returning to work after pregnancy, and menopause. Importantly, gaining this deeper understanding means engaging with women from different backgrounds both in work and non-work settings.

With this awareness, communicators will be better equipped when it comes to driving conversations with female employees, sharing their stories and ultimately creating inclusive company narratives.

C-Suite execs must be enabled to communicate and lead from the front when it comes to fostering empathetic workplaces, working with their internal comms teams to become more visible and approachable.

Paying close attention to how information is relayed is also vital. This involves triple checking the language that is being used in communications, making sure it’s inclusive before shared widely. It’s also about looking at the formats that content is shared. Whether via video, written or podcast, this needs to be accessible to all people within the organisation, no matter where they are working - remote, in the office or away from the desk.

How technology can help

Employee communications solutions play a pivotal role in reinforcing company cultures under a strong narrative. Whether it is sharing tailored content such as corporate news or creating designated Slack channels for employees with similar interests, these solutions ensure messages are reaching relevant internal audiences, while creating a sense of community across the organisation.

Alongside promoting open communication across the business, communicators now more than ever are prioritising communications tools to leverage data-driven insights on how their comms are received by different audiences, including amongst female employees.

To continue fostering female tech talent, Staffbase has expanded its efforts on multiple fronts. Besides establishing a DE&I committee to shine a light on diversity issues and creating a women’s group via Slack that also meets regularly via Zoom, the company shares  CEO discussions regarding the gender-pay gap via the employee app. Without seeing these conversations, I would have not realised how seriously my company takes the issues I care about.

Creating inclusive company narratives

As a cross-functional leader at Staffbase, I’ve seen first-hand the value of working on diverse teams and having a range of perspectives in the room. It allows us to look at problems in new ways, and find more creative solutions.

To ensure that women in tech are seen and their voices are heard, prioritising effective internal communications is absolutely essential.  You can’t be what you can’t see, so stories told by companies play a significant part in driving DE&I initiatives.

By listening to your female employees, paying close attention to their stories and weaving their unique experiences in the company narrative, businesses will be better placed to attract, retain and grow diverse female talent.

About the author

Lara DobsonLara Dobson is a tech-industry market strategy and research expert originally from Salt Lake City, Utah (USA). After graduating from Loyola Marymount University with a degree in Sociology in 2015, Lara moved to Germany where she completed a yearlong congressional fellowship for cultural diplomacy. As someone with a social sciences degree and a more right-brained profile, she never considered herself a “tech” person, that is until she found herself working in an industry where “tech” is almost an understatement.

Lara joined Staffbase as their first Product Marketing hire in 2018. Since joining, she has built and led a Product Marketing team of now 11 people through 10X revenue growth, in less than 4 years. Lara is bilingual in English and German and leads her team in two languages. Through the rollercoaster of exponential growth including two major M&As in the past year, she has embraced a learning-by-doing mindset, and learned that there is room for people with diverse skill sets and interests in tech. She’s passionate about making technology approachable, both as a concept and as a career.

Two Female College Students Building Machine In Science Robotics Or Engineering Class

Unlocking the untapped potential of female tech talent will help drive economic growth

Article by Eliza Dickie, Data Analyst, Grayce

Two Female College Students Building Machine In Science Robotics Or Engineering ClassResearch recently published by the Learning & Work Institute revealed that 60% of UK businesses believe their reliance on advanced digital skills will increase over the next five years and under half (48%) of UK employers believe that young people leave full-time education with sufficient advanced digital skills.

This growing crisis has been further exacerbated by the pandemic, which rapidly accelerated the pace of digital transformation and left an increasing chasm between the current supply of tech talent and the demand by businesses.

Bridging this divide relies on developing talented and digitally native Generation Z workers by equipping them with the qualifications and credentials they need to break into high-skilled jobs. But there’s one demographic in particular that remains key to helping to narrow the gap. According to the latest figures, just 26% of UK graduates with core STEM degrees are female. This figure is also translated in the female STEM workforce, with women making up 24%.

Fixing the ‘leaky pipeline’ to drive economic recovery

The pandemic has brought to light the urgent need for gender equality in the tech industry. Efforts have been made to address the imbalance – and we are starting to see a shift – however, the imbalance does still exist in STEM fields. There are a number of cultural reasons for this, which has been dubbed ‘the leaky pipeline’ effect – when women become underrepresented minorities in STEM fields because many ‘leak’ out into alternative career paths to juggle work and family life.

Equal labour market opportunities and striving for gender balance in the tech sector are not only a matter of integrity for the talented women and girls choosing STEM paths, they could also help unlock the UK’s economic recovery. With the critical shortage of relevant skills clearly threatening the UK economy’s ability to recover from the devastating effects of the pandemic, business leaders believe that further investment in digital skills is critical.

The tech sector in the UK has seen 40% growth over the past two years, and to avoid a talent shortage as companies continue to build their workforces and invest in digital skills development, young women must have access to the right training and reskilling opportunities. Further investment should be made into giving them access to the support and training necessary for successful careers in tech, which in turn, would also help advance economic mobility. By reassuring girls that STEM subjects are valuable and desired in the future job market, they will become more confident in pursuing STEM careers, which would help ensure a steady flow on digital talent into the industry and a narrowing of the skills gap.

Supporting emerging talent is imperative

Recently, a group of London businesses called on Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, to tackle the capital’s skills shortage, warning that its recovery from the pandemic was on the line. This has highlighted a debate around whether businesses should be looking further afield to hire employees from around the world to work for them remotely. While tapping into international experts could be beneficial, there is a pool of young talent here in the UK that should be utilised and that would also help reduce unemployment.

There is no doubt that economic recovery relies on the digital skills gap being narrowed and the emerging workforce being better utilised. With many young graduates struggling in the current job market, who are eager to learn and train, more should be done to support them. Educating and equipping young people with digital skills and placing an emphasis on encouraging young women to pursue STEM careers are essential steps for the future of the UK economy.

Eliza DickieAbout the author

Eliza Dickie is a Data Analyst at Grayce in her first year of training on the Data+ Programme. She has been assigned to a project at investment management firm, M&G, and is currently working in a data engineering, data science and data analytics role. She has taken some Azure data qualifications to improve her knowledge around data engineering and is also participating in several courses provided by Grayce, such as data cross linking to develop her skills.

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