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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!


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Balancing act: engineering a future for women in STEM

Sarah Glastonbury, part of the Senior Leadership Team at Creative ITC, explains that although progress is being made, there’s a lot more the IT sector can do to improve gender balance.

For years women have been under-represented in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) university courses and occupations. Since 2015, the number of female graduates globally in core STEM subjects fluctuated between 24% and 26% in 2019 – where it has now stalled. The fact that the IT industry continues to be male dominated with women making up just 19% of the current tech workforce is therefore not surprising.

So, what can the tech sector to do redress this imbalance?

Change will do you good

The good news is, there are positive signs of change. Over the past decade, we’ve definitely seen inroads across the industry to improve diversity and equality, creating more opportunity and support for females to consider STEM careers. Campaigning and changing attitudes are also encouraging women to take up different roles and move into more senior positions within the sector.

A diverse team combining a mix of genders, ethnicities, experiences and backgrounds will incorporate different perspectives and viewpoints to enable better problem solving. Companies which become known for encouraging a more diverse workforce also benefit from attracting a wide talent pool.

Altering perceptions

At Creative we’re really proud that a third of our team is female. One was recently crowned employee of the year and another is one of the top virtualisation gurus on the planet. Yet, within the IT industry this seems to be the exception rather than the norm. Women have been put off by perceptions of the IT sector’s male-dominated working environment. It’s slowly changing, but we need to lose the perception that you need to be a male geek to work in IT. It’s not all about code, ones and zeros, soldering motherboards, and so on.

If you’re naturally analytical and method-minded, you’re already well on the way. Women have become known as natural multi-taskers. Many of us are working mums – we’re used to keeping lots of plates spinning, which is a great skill to have in such a fast-paced, ever-changing industry.

Many women have been put off pursuing tech careers by lack of flexible working. However, one of the positive outcomes of the pandemic is stigma around working from home has disappeared. It’s become completely acceptable to acknowledge that we’re all juggling work with personal lives. Conversations on maintaining work-life balance and wellbeing are now commonplace – and we’re all more relaxed as a result, men and women alike.

Two of the things I’ve most enjoyed about working in this sector are variety and the energetic pace. There’s always something new on the horizon. It’s fascinating to see how businesses go about adopting digital tech for competitive edge. The drive to be faster, smarter and leaner adds tremendous buzz and energy. The industry needs to get better at communicating this to attract the best talent.

Bringing the dream to life

More needs to be done to grow awareness at grass-roots level. Sadly, only 35% of girls study STEM subjects beyond GCSE, compared to 80% of boys. We need to change that and convince young women that starting a career in IT is a smart move.

We need to bring that dream alive – for example, by celebrating female tech leaders more. It’s important to have a variety of role models that young women can identify with. When you bring women into senior positions, you show that others have the opportunity to succeed too. Better online and media representation of females working in tech would help as well.

The diversity of roles within the sector is not widely understood. You don’t necessarily need to be good at maths or understand binary to be a software developer, for example. Neither would women intuitively associate an IT job advert with an opportunity that could lead to a long, lucrative career, which might take them around the world. To encourage diversity, recruiters need to get better at crafting job opportunities. Women are likely to be attracted to roles offering the ability to work creatively, travel and be well-rewarded, with benefits such as working flexibly around childcare and better maternity packages.

Remember there’s always a technical position out there that plays to your strengths. It’s just finding the right one that will enable you to thrive. And there’s never been a better time. The global IT field is crying out for young female talent.

Sarah GlastonburyAbout the author

An enthusiastic, versatile B2B marketeer with over 10 years of experience in the IT sector, Sarah leads marketing strategy, planning and execution for Creative Group. CIM-qualified and results-oriented, she has proven success in delivering exceptional business outcomes on the national and international stage.


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Rethinking the pursuit of gender parity

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Article by Lotus Smits, Global Head of Diversity & People Experience at Glovo

Every year, the need for greater gender parity grows. That’s because progress is painfully slow. In the EU, it’s set to be achieved in 200 years, while in the US the pay gap hasn’t budged for two straight years.

The pandemic only served to make this worse. For women in the workplace, it spelled a colossal setback, with women being pushed out of more jobs at an alarming rate.

Now, if we are to not only regain this ground, but accelerate on and make more progress, we need a plan of action that is bold and ushers in far-reaching changes.

To me, this comes down to how we think about leadership in general. In his TedX talk, psychologist Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic said how despite women possessing more of the values more integral to great leadership; such as humility, integrity and competence, it’s often men’s charisma and confidence that wins out.

Similarly, McKinsey looked at the actions of managers during the pandemic, and women were found to provide more emotional support, help navigate work-life challenges, and check in on general well-being than their male counterparts.

Research even shows that beyond employees, when it comes to a company’s bottom line women leaders would add $1.6-2.3 trillion to the global gross domestic product. Yet despite this, only 2.8% of global venture capital funding went to women-led businesses in 2019–and even that was an all-time high.

Promoting strong leadership values over gender isn’t just a victory for equality; it’s a victory for the workplace.

To finally make some progress worth celebrating, I suggest four major changes to the workplace and below, explore how these can be key drivers in addressing gender balance and giving women not only a seat at the table, but rightfully a seat at the head of it.

1. Redefining how we talk and think about gender

The irony of trying to address the gender balance is that we often do so by the compass needle of gender stereotypes.

Women did three times as much childcare as men during the pandemic, which was part of the reason so many left their jobs, whilst in the US the pay gap widened the more time people took to care for their families.

But why, when we think of carers, do we think of women? We should have broad policies in place that accommodate all sexes. This way, the playing field is levelled and carers of any gender are supported.

Gabrielle Novacek, MD & Partner, Boston Consulting Group, says how we should stop thinking about demographics, and instead think about how our workplace can become more effective to a broader workforce.

That way, when we think of carers, or leaders, innovators and business owners, we’re not thinking of gender first–but individuals.

2. Changing what defines great leadership

It’s not just about changing how we define leadership, but all levels of seniority. And acknowledging that how we pick our leaders can have an enormous effect on the rest of our workforce.

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic sees the way forwards as not lowering leadership standards for women, but elevating them for men. This way, the sync between incompetence and leadership is broken, regardless of gender.

This lens on leadership also levels the playing field for men and non-binary employees who do not display typically ‘masculine’ behaviours. Leadership based on competence seems like a low bar to set ourselves; yet it is one that is still sorely missing.

3. Making the workplace experience the same

Workplaces support maternity leave, so why shouldn’t they support other situations pertaining to female health? This means we are putting our people forward, and telling women, regardless of age, medical condition or circumstance, we will support them to work how they want to work.

One in four women suffer a miscarriage, yet organisations are only now waking up to introducing policies to support not just bereaved parents. With big organisations such as Channel 4, Monzo and others introducing their policies last year.

While if your workforce includes 10 women going through menopause, 8 of those will experience noticeable symptoms–with almost half finding them hard to deal with. Yet menopause policies offering flexible working or comfort breaks, are still a rarity.

4. Encourage allyship

Arguably the biggest misnomer about the fight for a better gender parity is that it’s a job for women, to be fought by women. Yet it stands to benefit us all and should be fought by everyone.

Encouraging people to speak up in the workplace is not just about women speaking out against prejudice, but having their male counterparts do the same. If a workplace is serious about its commitment to gender balance, it must encourage speaking up and showing true allyship.

Let’s look to Germany for an example. After recently voting in their first male Chancellor for 16 years, for the first time in their history they have selected a cabinet with a 50:50 gender split. As Olaf Scholz explained, “Women and men account for half the population, so women should also get half the power.”

Inviting someone into the conversation and acknowledging their skills and expertise is vital to normalising diverse leadership, building a supportive community and driving organisational change.

But progress must be maintained. A point to make for all of the above is that we must set ourselves ambitious targets, and ensure we stick to them; surpass them, even. If we do, then in the years to come, we’ll not only be looking back on a far more positive workplace for women, but for everyone. And as much as we want to see progress for gender parity being made, there are other aspects and dimensions that require actions for a more diverse and equitable workplace, so anyone can feel at their best.

About the author

Lotus SmitsLotus is currently leading the Global Diversity, Inclusion and Culture Team at Glovo. She has always been fascinated by human behaviour and dynamics. After receiving her master’s degree in Behavioural and Organisational Psychology from the University of Amsterdam, Lotus worked as part of the people team for Vodafone in London and then at Booking.com in Amsterdam. In 2017, Lotus moved into a role building the Diversity, Inclusion & Wellbeing strategy & programs from scratch, and this allowed her to discover her passion for creating a healthier, fairer working environment. Lotus wants to empower everyone to feel connected, valued and to fulfil their full potential at work.


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ICT is still a very male dominated industry – how RIPE are helping the gender balance

Article by Mirjam Kühne, RIPE Chair

ICT is still a very male dominated industry, including the part that deals with the underlying technical Internet infrastructure. Having studied Computer Science in the 80s and early 90s, I am used to this environment, and I was often the only woman in the room.

However, I felt that the technical Internet community was different from other, more established ICT industries in the way that it was a relatively young field, and people were passionate, open, honest, and very informal. That’s one reason I have always enjoyed being part of the RIPE community, which is a group of people who make sure the Internet infrastructure continues to work and grow in Europe, the Middle East and parts of Central Asia.

Now, 30 years later, the community is ageing, and we need to make sure we attract the next generation of network engineers so that the enormous amount of expertise that lives in this community doesn’t get lost. I am concerned that network engineering as a career is not very popular among young people today and that there is still a lack of women coming into the field. Since a lot of network operation is automated these days, knowledge about hands-on network engineering is dwindling and maybe not promoted well enough in universities. Especially during the pandemic, it has become apparent just how important a functioning Internet is – and it’s the knowledge and expertise of the network operators who collaborate in forums such as RIPE who make this happen.

The COVID pandemic has made the situation worse due to the fact it was harder for newcomers, including women, to enter the community and actively participate. In May 2022, the RIPE community will have its first onsite meeting for more than two years. This is also an opportunity to attract young, new talent. We are working together with universities to set up several events especially for students, both in person and online – one of which is an online session in May which will look at the topic ‘Who controls the Internet or Network Engineering as a Career’, which all students are welcome to join.

During the RIPE 84 meeting in Berlin, we will also continue our Women in Tech series, this time focusing on the Gender Data Gap. We will be highlighting sex-disaggregated data and what it can tell us about the gender gap in ICT, and there will be a keynote speech, interview, and workshop. We also have a RIPE Diversity Task Force who meets to work on actions aimed at increasing diversity at RIPE Meetings, and we continue to provide on-site childcare to make it easier for parents to attend.

We will also use the RIPE Meeting to further promote our new RIPE Code of Conduct and recruit members for the Code of Conduct Team. If we want to increase diversity and be inclusive to everybody, we need to make sure we provide a safe environment – and having the right reporting processes in place and people you can approach in case you feel something is wrong is an important part of that.

The RIPE community and RIPE Meetings are open to everybody and always have been. I am proud to see many influential women active in the RIPE community and in leadership positions, including my role as the first female RIPE Chair. Having these role models helps to attract others to step up. At RIPE, we aim to foster diverse and inclusive RIPE Meetings where all attendees feel welcome to participate fully, and we take steps to increase our diversity further through these initiatives.

The online student session is being held on 3 May 17:00 – 18:30 (UTC+2). Speakers: Bert Hubert, Franziska Lichtblau (PC Chair) and the topic will be ‘Who controls the Internet or Network Engineering as a Career’, more information will be available nearer the time at: https://ripe84.ripe.net/


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International Women’s Day: The importance of allyship in gender diversity

diversity and inclusion, National Inclusion Week, inspirational profilesArticle by Joanne Gilhooley, chief marketing officer at Adarma

This week marked International Women’s Day – a day dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women, raising awareness against bias and for championing action to drive meaningful change to create a fairer, more equal world. 

While there has been much progress in some respects, women are still vastly underrepresented in the technology industry, particularly among senior leadership teams. Women still only make up less than a quarter of the cybersecurity workforce.

Research also shows that women are still promoted at a far lower rate than their male counterparts; this may be why women are not attracted to the industry in the first place. For every 100 men promoted to manager, only 86 women are promoted. This could account for the lack of women in leadership roles.

So, where are organisations going wrong in addressing gender diversity? Well first, it’s important to not think of gender equality as a female issue, it’s a social, moral and economic issue. It’s also a major problem for an industry that is facing an ongoing digital skills crisis, which is making it increasingly difficult for employers to fill roles. In turn, this is leading to the overburdening of already strained teams. One study puts the global cybersecurity talent shortage at more than 4 million people.

A McKinsey Global Institute report found that $12 trillion (11%) could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality. In a “full potential” scenario in which women play an identical role in labour markets to that of men, as much as $28 trillion (26%), could be added to global annual GDP by 2025.

Moreover, research shows that diverse teams perform better and are more innovative. Leaders across all industries recognise that a diverse workforce is good for business.

In short, there is an urgency to attract more women to the profession and, more importantly, an imperative to retain them. Women are unlikely to join or stay in a career that chronically undervalues them, or where they feel there are too few gender equality allies.

To do this will require a shift in how business leaders, organisation influencers, and we all think about the issue – it’s no longer a ‘nice to have’ or a topic siloed off to HR.

Encourage allyship through company culture

Although there are no quick fixes to these challenges of gender equality, there are steps companies can and should take.

Changing company culture is a good first step. Work culture deeply influences organisational leadership style, how people interact with their colleagues, how people feel overall in their role and their sentiment towards the company.

Women’s day-to-day experiences are heavily influenced by their interactions with managers and co-workers.

Crafting a company culture that fully leverages and promotes the benefits of diversity will go a long way to addressing the issue. Women, and all employees, should feel comfortable bringing their ideas, perspective, and experiences to the table.

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If both men and women have workplace psychological safety, they will be more likely to call out unfair practices, behaviour that diminishes women and be more supportive of their co-workers. This will benefit DEI and positively influence the experiences of women in the workplace.

If an employer can achieve this type of work environment, everyone will feel happier in their jobs and more connected to their co-workers and more likely to be a gender ally.

Allyship from more senior colleagues, both male and female, can make an enormous difference. Senior leaders within the business need to fully and publicly support gender equality and actively participate in training and events related to DEI. This will strongly signal the organisation’s commitment to doing more to boost DEI.

Doing this will help infuse this type of culture into the organisation much more quickly and encourage strong buy-in from employees who will see the benefits in modelling this behaviour.

Engage men in the gender inclusion programmes

Gender equality must be everyone’s responsibility. It cannot be driven by women alone. Men must be included and engaged in the dialogue so that they can play their role in the solution. Everyone needs to be empowered to be a gender diversity supporter.

Evidence shows that when men are deliberately engaged in gender inclusion programmes, 96% of organisations see progress. This is compared to only 30% of organisations where men are not engaged.

According to McKinsey & LeanIn’s latest Women in the Workplace Report, men account for 79% of the C-suite and 93% of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. With such influence in senior roles, men are well positioned to become powerful gender allies, which would help speed up progress and make changes more sustainable.

Aside from making the workplace a fairer and positive environment, men also benefit when they champion gender equality on a personal level. One study found that men who were more likely to act as allies to women reported proportionately higher levels of personal growth and were more likely to say they acquired skills that made them better husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons.

At Adarma we are proactively working to build this type of inclusive culture where everyone feels empowered to speak-up, share their ideas, recognised for their work, and valued as an individual.

Although we have more work to do in terms of gender diversity, we are supporting and sponsoring initiatives, such as the ‘Empowering Women to Lead Cyber Security’ programme, to provide training to women wishing to progress in their career into senior leadership roles.

We have also reviewed our hiring language to ensure we are making careers into cybersecurity more accessible for everyone.

Our flexible working policy ensures that our people are empowered to manage their work life balance and are not excluded from being part of our team.

“Inclusion without diversity cannot exist. The balance of women in cybersecurity, especially in leadership positions, needs to change. Over the course of my career, I’ve seen first-hand that the best ideas and solutions come from more diverse teams; whether that’s in the boardroom or in day-to-day interactions with customers, partners and communities.

“It’s vital that we attract and retain more women into the cybersecurity industry, and, more importantly, we develop those that are already here. It’s critical that businesses sponsor initiatives that support women at work and provide training, but also take proactive steps to drive a company culture that removes bias and improves everyone’s daily work experiences.” – John Maynard, CEO at Adarma.

 Learn more about what we are doing to build a more balanced and representative workplace.

Joanne GilhooleyAbout the author

Before joining Adarma, I was most recently Director of Marketing for Microsoft in the UK, responsible for defining and supporting Microsoft’s commercial and consumer business’. With over 15 years cybersecurity experience and prior to my role at Microsoft, I led teams delivering sales training and enablement, global product marketing and CxO executive marketing at HP (HPE/DXC Technology). I was also Marketing Director at Vistorm, prior to it being acquired by HP. I am passionate about cybersecurity and helping to make the digital world safe and accessible for all. Outside of work I love the outdoor life and can often be seen trying to ride my horse ‘Buffy” around the Chiltern Hills!

Meet our 100 incredible leaders breaking the bias & calling for societal change this International Women’s Day

As part of our #WeAreBreakingTheBias campaign, we will be sharing the thoughts of over 100 leaders who are calling for societal change for women. We hope you will join us so we can amplify why we should all #BreakTheBias for gender equity.

VIEW OUR 100 INSPIRING LEADERS

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How can we break the biometric bias for gender equality?

Article by Cindy White, CMO at Mitek

Today’s expectation is that technology solutions are unbiased. Sexist AI algorithms and facial recognition technologies need to be a thing of the past.

Even the most advanced technologies today lack the intellect to be deliberately biased, so let’s not “feed the beast”.

Although women comprise half of the population and the majority of the world is composed of people of color, the development of biometrics technology has long been the province of white men, a situation that has lent itself to egregious bias.

For example, a 2019 investigation by The New York Times discovered that one widely used facial-recognition data set was estimated to be more than 75% male and more than 80% white. While much progress has been made in reducing bias in facial recognition technology, we’re still not there yet.

Digital access is a daily requirement and enables financial transactions, retail convenience, education, healthcare, and even dating. How can we better understand the challenges and work as a community to offer alternative digital solutions?

Defining biometric bias

Biometric systems are being used to analyse the physiological or behavioural traits of an individual for the purposes of identity verification and authentication. This is commonly conducted using facial recognition or fingerprint analysis, both of which use machine learning.

Now, the problem with bias arises when the dataset used to train that biometric system (machine learning) lacks equal representation of all archetypes. Biometric bias can be defined as a system performing in an inconsistent manner which does not fully acknowledge the demographic make-up of society.

Questioning the design process

It’s important to note that biometrics itself is not actually biased, as they are not making any independent and intelligent decisions based on human values. Bias and inequality in biometric technologies are caused by a lack of diverse demographic data, bugs, and inconsistencies found in the algorithms.

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Inclusion means equal access, but we aren’t there yet. We still have a long way to go, even with some of the world’s most widely adopted technologies. Collectively we have a responsibility to ensure digital identity technologies are truly inclusive. That means not misrepresenting the underrepresented through racist and sexist facial recognition and artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms, or apps and mobile devices that don’t consider women and people of colour.

Crackdown on ethical AI guidelines

Determining ‘what is right’ goes beyond creating accuracy benchmarks. We also need to create ethical guidelines. The UK recently launched its 10 Year National AI Strategy, while the EU is currently working through the proposal of the EU AI Act. However, we need to do more than theoretically talk about AI and its implications.

AI ethical guidelines would serve to solidify the rights and freedoms of individuals using or subject to data-driven biometric technologies. Until we define what is and is not an ethical use of biometric technology, there is no metric or benchmark that exist to gauge the quality of technology.

Putting these practices in place will be a step forward in a gender equality. To be successful long-term, technology firms should be prioritising digital access for everyone, including women. To start, they should look at their own workforces; the more women influencing these tools, the better gender bias will be tackled.

Cindy WhiteAbout the author

International marketing executive with extensive experience across B2B and B2C, Cindy White has a proven record of innovation and leadership and a passion for building brands and product marketing. As Mitek Chief Marketing Officer, Cindy leads the company’s global marketing, brand, communications, product marketing, customer acquisition and partner programs.

Before joining Mitek, Cindy was Vice President of Marketing at FICO, where she developed a deep interest and expertise in fraud prevention. Previously, she was Director of Worldwide SMB Marketing for Microsoft, leading a global team chartered with the roll out of Office 365 and supporting the success of more than 85 million customers worldwide.

Meet our 100 incredible leaders breaking the bias & calling for societal change this International Women’s Day

As part of our #WeAreBreakingTheBias campaign, we will be sharing the thoughts of over 100 leaders who are calling for societal change for women. We hope you will join us so we can amplify why we should all #BreakTheBias for gender equity.

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How the technology industry needs to change for gender equality

Article by Bonu Hafizova, Director of Alif Academy

gender equality, gender balanceThe dynamic of gender-specific job sectors, roles, and positions might seem like an outdated concept, yet events like International Women’s Day highlight the divides in the workplace that still exist.

The lack of equal gender representation in the tech sector worldwide is particularly prevalent.

Take the UK for example. Women make up  49% of the nation’s workforce, yet when it comes to the technology sector,  81% are male. Whilst gender equality in the technology industry is not comprehensively documented in Central Asia like other regions, existing research shows that women that hold tech roles in Uzbekistan is even lower, at just 18%. As the Director of Alif Academy, a centre dedicated to providing female Tajikistani residents and Afghan refugees with free STEM courses, we have to question why such inequality exists.

In my view, it partly reflects a general and often unfounded stereotype about the tech industry. It is wrongly believed that tech jobs do not interest women or that women are not skilled or adept enough to pursue STEM careers. With males disproportionately dominating the sector and holding the majority of leadership positions, it is a difficult narrative to counter.

To evidence this, we need to examine the choices men and women make before they start their careers. Looking at the UK, we’d expect to see a positive representation of women on STEM courses. However,  university enrolment figures in 2021 show the majority of university enrollees are female, with a 56.6% share, yet the gender split for IT courses in 2021 details that, of 129,610 UCAS applications, only 22,710 – or 17.5% – were female. Any attempt to promote more women pursuing careers in tech has to take this into account. More women need to be encouraged early on to pursue training in the tech field or at least be encouraged to explore their interest in the industry.

Of course, the formulation of career choices among both men and women occurs long before university course selections are made, which is why Alif Academy gives specific focus to children in elementary school also.  By providing clearer guidance and examples to young children, we stand to take a proactive approach to tackle gender equality more widely. Age is a crucial factor when changing gender landscapes, particularly in developing countries where less accessible information encourages the ingraining of traditional, but incorrect stereotypes as to what roles women are suited to in society and the workplace.

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In order to formulate a system that accepts more women into technological industries, increased awareness is needed to change the longstanding, traditional stereotypes of who a tech worker is. There are several ways to do this, with prioritisation depending on the culture, country and prevalence of females already in tech positions.

Firstly, we need to champion the women currently working in the sector and provide them with an equal share of voice when it comes to discussing their experiences, expertise, and careers so far. It may prove particularly effective to champion women in leading tech positions, and promote case studies from a multitude of developed and developing countries that focus on the specific experiences women have had in their technological careers.

Whether it be increased marketing, female-led initiatives, scholarships, funds, or female-dedicated internship opportunities, the sector will not change unless a widespread and active invitation for women to learn more about the industry is achieved.

Second, education needs to be as inclusive as possible. At Alif Academy, we ensure that our female students have equal support and resources when compared to their male counterparts. Stereotypes are often generational, so we’ve seen that engaging with the parents or guardians of our female students and explaining the opportunities afforded within the IT sector has encouraged course completion, as well as supporting career drive and ambition. Importantly, through our experiences at Alif Academy, it is clear that it is never too late for women to pursue a career in tech. The biggest step for women is taking that first step.

Finally, the tech sector needs to be accessible for all women. Acceptance of pursuing a career in technology may be improving in advanced economies. However, we must also accept that this is a global issue. If we don’t have spokespeople raising awareness of the many possibilities women have in technological sectors in developed and developing countries the gender split will remain stark.

Alif Academy highlights how impactful these education opportunities, particularly when easily accessible, can be. We’ve started to make headway in Tajikistan, and I look forward to continuing this mission and seeing other countries do the same.


Smiling man and woman standing on weighing dishes of balance scale. Concept of gender equality at work or in business, equal rights for both sexes. Colorful vector illustration in flat cartoon style.

International Women's Day: Driving gender equality within STEM roles

Article provided by Vaishali Phatak, Technical Learning Service Head & Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion, Tech Mahindra

The rapid ascension of the global technology sector is one of the biggest success stories of the century.

McKinsey estimates that the sector is expected to top $300bn within five years as service providers break new ground in cybersecurity, AI and enterprise tech for an ever-expanding global audience. It’s undoubtedly an exciting time for everyone in the sector.

It brings me great pleasure and a sense of personal pride that this success has been driven with women at the helm in leading roles. The gender gap in the global IT firms is closing quickly; as per Deloitte Global, the large global technology firms will reach nearly 33% overall female representation in their workforces in 2022. At Tech, Mahindra, we’ve improved the gender diversity ratio by 5% in the last two quarters.

We know that optimising the capabilities and leveraging the strengths of a diverse workforce – including by gender – will serve as a strategic differentiator. Look no further than MarketPsych’s study; companies that embraced diversity grew almost 3% faster than those that did not. Equally, a study by Built found that diverse companies generate 19% more revenue, are 15% more likely to exceed median industry profits.

As Tech Mahindra’s Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion, I am developing and implementing long-term D&I roadmaps that focus on gender, generations, sexual orientation, abilities, cultural diversity, and nationalities. Our comprehensive learning and development platform ensures all our employees have an inclusive working environment, and access to safe and secure working environments. We believe that Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) at the workplace is an instrument for growth. We value and celebrate the uniqueness of every individual by fostering an environment of inclusion and empowerment. Our policies and practices are gender-agnostic and disability confident.

Making a global impact on International Women’s Day

In 2022 we envisage following a ‘GLOCAL’ strategy across EMEA, acknowledging the vast and unique differences in culture between every country. Our plan is to build more awareness around our Diversity & Inclusion policy and reiterate our message of zero tolerance to any harassment at work.

We’ve also launched our WLP program, designed to help women in individual contributor roles to get started on leadership roles in project, program or people management. This is a 6-7 month learning and development plus career opportunity program. To date we’ve been overwhelmed with the nominations received and the interest shown by our Young Women leaders to participate in this program but are always looking for ways to improve further. For this reason, we’re looking to extend the number of participants beyond 30 in the near future.

Finally, our D&I Gender Diversity Council will continue to act as our central body across EMEA to support, develop, and drive initiatives.

Maintaining momentum post COVID-19

Upheavals such as COVID-19 and the ensuing economic squeeze risk causing a ‘backwards slide’ for women in STEM, according to Princess Anne. Couple this with the flatlining of the proportion of tech roles filled by women in the UK (remaining at 16% since 2009), and the scale of the challenge ahead becomes clear.

There are proven ways in which to retain and nurture/ groom women in STEM, however, with commitments to pay equity, sponsorship programs, anti-bias training and leadership development programs for women among the most effective. And for companies which have a hard time attract women into STEM fields, eliminating bias in the hiring process and making public, long term investments in gender equality. By stating goals and timeframes accountability will be raised.

It’s paramount that we continue to upskill women in the workplace. While we’ve repeatedly seen women prove themselves across STEM roles, the focus must now be on progressing outstanding individuals into techno managerial, leadership and board level roles. I’ve seen a growing number of female software engineers, but few in top-level architecture, solution consultant, data scientists roles. This must change, and the onus is on businesses to consider how to fully utilize strengths and provide them with challenges and opportunities to grow.

As I reflect on gender diversity on International Women’s Day, I can’t help but feel that despite the flatlining of women in tech roles, we’ve made significant progress as a society. While it may have been patchy and uneven, there’s no doubt that diversity and representation is an issue which has risen to the top priorities of many boardrooms around the world.

The desire for women to fill STEM roles has never been greater; now we must work together to empower, inspire, and support one another to ensure possibilities are limitless for anybody in the workplace.

Vaishali PhatakAbout the author

Vaishali Phatak is the Technical Learning Service Head, and Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Tech Mahindra. In her current role, Vaishali leads the Global Technical Learning Function for the organisation where she has redefined the objectives in order to create a future-ready workforce that enables business growth. In her time at Tech Mahindra, she has helped to conceptualise and implement learning programs like fresher training, role based learning journeys and higher education for the underserved  in collaboration with Universities.

She was also the former Chairperson of POSH at Work, an organisation which highlights the issue of sexual harrassment and provides employers with a policy against sexual harassment in the workplace. Under her tenure, she helped to create sustainable diversity and inclusion practises focusing on Gender, Generations, PwD, LGBTQ+ etc. She has built rigour in D&I practises with a 3-year roadmap for tracking improvement as well as creating new policies and initiatives in this area.

Meet our 100 incredible leaders breaking the bias & calling for societal change this International Women’s Day

As part of our #WeAreBreakingTheBias campaign, we will be sharing the thoughts of over 100 leaders who are calling for societal change for women. We hope you will join us so we can amplify why we should all #BreakTheBias for gender equity.

VIEW OUR 100 INSPIRING LEADERS

Diverse international and interracial group of standing women, women empowering women

How women can empower each other to thrive in the tech world

Diverse international and interracial group of standing women, women empowering women

Article provided by Ann-Kathrin Sauthoff-Bloch, Partner and Managing Director at Infosys Consulting

The game-changing #MeToo movement showed how women in positions of power can raise one another, inspire, and influence, and be a positive role model for others.

This final article in the series will explore how women can empower themselves and each other to not only survive but thrive in the tech industry.

8 TOP TIPS TO EMPOWER EACH OTHER

Create Support Groups

It can be especially lonely at the top with female executives often being the lone voice at the decision-making table and in male-dominated power lunches and dinners. This is not surprising with women forming only 16% of the workforce in the tech industry with just 5% in senior leadership roles.

It is crucial for women to form peer-to-peer and cross-level support groups with like-minded individuals to alleviate the feeling of isolation in the workplace. It can also be a powerful platform to freely exchange ideas and voice your thoughts and experiences on sensitive topics like depression, stress, anxiety, gender discrimination, and sexual harassment. Support groups play a huge role in enabling women to escape the negative loop of feeling they are alone

Share Your Story (with the good, bad, and ugly bits)

Women can feel more empowered if they have awareness of and access to positive role models. Taking inspiration from success stories of other female leaders, entrepreneurs and achievers can inject that extra dose of motivation to propel women ahead in their careers.

Female leaders should leverage the support groups within their organisation to share their journeys and not only talk about the strengths and attributes that helped them succeed but also their vulnerabilities, failures, and the obstacles they overcame to seize opportunities and realise their goals. The more women speak openly about their trials and tribulations the more confidence they can inspire in others to not let mistakes and setbacks dent their resolve to succeed.

Mentor and Sponsor

Senior female leaders in the firm should proactively offer themselves as mentors or executive sponsors for female staff who show aspirations and potential to reach higher positions. This is all the more important in the post-Covid world which has seen a major exodus of women from the workforce.

Mentors can provide their sage advice and leverage their experience to provide direction and guidance. Executive sponsors can use their personal credibility, reputation, and networks to level the playing field and offer connections and introductions that women would not otherwise have access to. They can also help women shift their thinking and consider alternate career paths, positions, projects, and opportunities. Executive sponsors can play a big role in increasing the pipeline of women for leadership roles.

Give Potential a Chance

Men usually get picked for opportunities based on their potential, whereas women tend to be evaluated on their prior experience. Women in positions of influence should endeavour to delegate or suggest promising female staff for projects where they feel they may be a great fit, irrespective of their experience. Women should lift each other up and give each other the chance to prove themselves.

Amplify Each Other

Women should break the stereotyped notion of ‘female rivalry’ and amplify each other’s voices in meetings, back each other when they agree with their views, respectfully disagree, and give one another space to speak openly. Lack of recognition remains one of the top reasons why people leave an organisation. Hence, whenever the opportunity arises, celebrate the strengths and accomplishments of female peers.

Discuss the Taboo Subject of ‘Pay’

Pay gap is a burning issue in gender inequality and the reason it remains grossly unresolved is because most companies aren’t transparent about pay structures and consider discussing it inappropriate. Equal pay for equal work is still an unrealised vision and many women don’t feel confident negotiating pay checks. Speaking openly about pay and sharing successful salary negotiation tips with each other, can empower other women to stand up for what they believe they deserve.

Normalise Parenting

There is a widely prevalent and misplaced notion that working moms are less committed to their work which makes women uncomfortable to discuss their family with work colleagues and managers for the fear of being perceived as undedicated. If we want more women to join the workforce and empower them to reach senior roles, we must normalise parenting and work-life balance. The more senior female leaders are open about their own parental responsibilities and talk about it freely in the workplace, the more it becomes the norm. There are moments where we all have to respond to family needs, and if we see leaders doing that, it makes it easier for everyone to do that and help shatter the assumption that you have to choose between your career and family to get ahead.

Champion the Cause

Last but not the least, get involved in the diversity and inclusion initiatives at your workplace. Don’t wait for your employer to start a diversity cell. If none exist, take the lead, and get your voices heard. Only when we all put our collective will behind a cause, proactively drive changes, and #chosetochallenge gender stereotypes, can real progress happen.

Ann-Kathrin Sauthoff-BlochAbout the author

Ann-Kathrin champions Infosys Consulting’s growth strategy across Europe. She has an impressive career history, having spent 14 years at Accenture, before moving to IBM in 2013, where she was the global lead account partner for Deutsche Telekom, one of IBM’s largest accounts in Germany, leading over 250 consultants onsite and offshore.


Trailblazer 50 2021 featured

WeAreTheCity & WeAreTechWomen are proud to publish our first Top 50 Trailblazers in Gender Equality List

2021 Top 50 Trailblazers

This year, WeAreTheCity & WeAreTechWomen are proud to publish their first ever Top 50 Trialblazers in Gender Equality.

As we leave behind yet another year of challenge for women in society, we would like to end 2021 by shining a positive light on the tireless efforts of 50 incredible individuals and teams.

Our 2021 trailblazers are responsible for several campaigns that will have a significant impact for gender equality. They have used their voices to raise awareness of key issues that women and men face both in society and in the workplace that will impact our ability to achieve gender equality. They have built communities for the underrepresented and created spaces where women from different backgrounds can thrive. They have used their own personal platforms to champion gender equality and opened their networks so that others can make connections and feel supported. They have spearheaded and driven campaigns that raise awareness around gendered health and well-being issues, pay inequality as well as women’s rights. They have given their time and expertise freely to charities and social enterprises that are driving gender equality, often below the radar and without any desire to be recognised for their efforts.

We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate and thank every single one of these changemakers, role models and trail blazers for making the world a more gender equal place.