gender-equality-featured

Women supporting women: creating a more diverse tech workforce

Hanna Stacey, Business Manager at Rackspace

gender equality, gender balanceIt’s no secret that the technology industry has a significant gender gap, with women comprising only 22 per cent of those in STEM core occupations.

There are a number of societal and cultural barriers that have contributed to this under-representation of women in technology. That said, we do know that the problem starts from an early age: by school age just 27 per cent of female students say they would consider a career in technology, compared to 61 per cent of males – and only three per cent say it would be their first choice.

As an industry we understand that the issue needs to be tackled from a young age. However, while this can help us encourage more girls to pursue a career in tech, it’s not a silver bullet. US studies have shown that more than half of women in tech will leave the industry by the mid-point of their career – double the rate of men. For the STEM industry to become truly diverse, we must look at how we’re supporting women throughout their tech journey – not just when they’re starting it.

Launching women into technology careers

From my own time in education, I understand how difficult it can be in a heavily male-dominated field. Having studied human biology at university and being one of only two women in my class, comments were often made about how unusual it was to see a woman in the labs. However, I was able to use this to motivate me. For this reason, I have made it my mission to motivate others to consider a career in an industry they have a passion for, but may have concerns about entering.

While there have been a number of fantastic STEM initiatives in recent years, there is still more that those of us working in the tech sector can be doing to make this shift. For example, we can be getting involved with girls in technology programmes at local schools to ensure that they have opportunities to meet female role models from industry and understand the exciting opportunities of a career in tech. This can help change their perceptions of what many recognise as a stereotypically male-dominated sector.

For example, Harlington School’s sixth form was recently welcomed to Rackspace’s offices for a ‘Women in Tech’ session. This involved an immersive tour into the world of cloud computing through interactive presentations and workshops. As part of this, the students built their own servers and cloud environments for online games using traditional hardware and cloud infrastructure. They also heard about the range of career opportunities in the tech sector.

We are seeing a growing appetite from girls to pursue a career in STEM - and I believe that this is in part due to the increased investment and focus in schools. Indeed, Harlington School attributes the increased number of females taking IT to A-Level directly to the ongoing relationship and involvement it has with the industry. It’s therefore key that we ensure that girls across the entire country have the same opportunities to understand the advantages of a career in tech and dispel the ‘boys club’ myth. 

Support throughout their technology journey

Nonetheless, it is not enough just to encourage more women into a tech career. Fifty-six per cent of women working in the technology industry leave their job halfway through their career journey. It’s therefore important that we consider their needs in the business and support them with taking advantage of all the opportunities available. This needs to be embedded in the company culture. It is for this reason that I helped set up the POWER group in EMEA (the Professional Organisation for Women’s Empowerment at Rackspace).

POWER launched at the beginning of the year, and in April the team agreed on three focus areas: attracting; developing; and retaining women to create better balance in the workforce. For each, we workshopped initiatives and shortlisted those we felt achievable in year one. This included increased visibility and influence for women in the workplace, as well as initiatives around reviewing the maternity leave process and launching a ‘parents at work’ group.

The group has helped us create a sense of community, which I believe is important if we want to retain more female talent in the technology industry. There’s a clear positive intent with the group as we are working towards providing equality in the workplace whilst also empowering women in tech. As a group, we’ve already delivered great outcomes and aim to continue to challenge the status quo, to ensure we are retaining women in STEM careers.

Be part of the technology revolution

We know that the technology industry has some of the greatest career opportunities as we enter the fourth – then fifth – industrial revolution. So, we must ensure that the traditional ‘boys club’ image is dispelled and that women feel increasingly inspired, confident and supported to pursue tech roles.

We all have our part to play in making a more diverse workforce in technology a reality. As we have seen, this means using our position in the industry to improve the future experience of women in technology firms, and highlighting its benefits to the next generation to inspire them to take part.

Hanna Stacey About the author

Hanna Stacey is a Business Manager at Rackspace, to the EMEA Managing Director, Darren Norfolk. She works alongside the leadership team to facilitate strategic planning, creation of scorecards and governance of projects whilst keeping the team focused on business priorities.

In the last year at Rackspace, Hanna has influenced the start-up of POWER, a professional network for Women’s empowerment at Rackspace and has been recognised at the Rising Star Awards as a winner in her field.

With a STEM background, Hanna has always been interested in the sciences and the future, and has found her niche working in the Technology industry.