76 per cent of employees have experienced gender bias or discrimination in the workplace.

This staggering statistic, from a Women in Tech survey, is a clear, and hugely disheartening, reminder that improving equality in the technology sector – particularly around gender – is an ongoing mission and one we all have responsibility for.

In today’s climate, it is crucial that business leaders and policymakers actively engage in conversation about fostering an inclusive workplace. Further than that, tech organisations and leaders must back conversation with action by embracing flexible working policies – allowing increased remote working, for example – and showing commitment to matters including fair parental pay and leave schemes, for both mothers and fathers, if they want to encourage women to join, and stay within, the industry.

What inspires entrants to the technology industry?

The tech industry is known for its innovative and fast-changing nature, which is often what draws people in. The opportunity to make an impact and continuously learn is particularly profound.

However, there is work to be done to truly address the gender imbalance, with Women in Tech findings revealing females still only account for 26 per cent of all employees. So much untapped potential is being lost because of barriers – perceived or otherwise – and it is the responsibility of everyone at the table, regardless of gender or background, to champion and inspire change.

An urge to make a real mark on what is a vastly exciting and critical sphere is a leading factor in people choosing to pursue a career in tech, and that opportunity must be accessible to all, without exception. A diversity of contributors is more needed than ever before, especially as the age of AI is upon us.

How can tech companies encourage diversity?  

Prioritising the hiring of a truly diverse talent pool and the imperative to create and build a genuinely inclusive working environment are key to the talent strategy of many technology companies. To execute positively, hiring managers must ensure they are being presented with diverse candidates and review their hiring criteria to minimise hidden or unconscious bias.

With the importance of work-life balance being front of mind for many employees, organisations must continue to implement and develop inclusive policies, crossing areas such as family leave, which enable women to thrive professionally and personally, if they are to benefit from the potential that so many bring.

To this end, it is also vital that not only businesses but society as a whole work to encourage and normalise the utilisation of parental leave among fathers. Enabling families to share roles and responsibilities from the outset is what will set strong foundations and lead to more equal participation throughout career spans.

For many, being able to count on family-friendly initiatives and policies, which allow home working or work-from-anywhere, for example, is crucial to their fulfilment. This flexibility not only enables more effective participation but, in many cases, it means women can progress in their careers more sustainably, without having to choose between career or family.

As a 2020 report from Accenture and Girls Who Code found, 50% of women who take up a tech role leave before the age of 35, compared to approximately 20% in other types of jobs, so keeping women in the industry through to leadership levels remains a distinct challenge.

This subject, though, is not solely a discussion for women. Equality is the responsibility of all, and it is incumbent upon those who broker the power within the current systems and structures to bring change faster.

Achieving true parity across the tech workforce is a mission that male colleagues must support and be supported in, too. From targeted action – like regularly tracking gender pay gaps internally and externally to ensure fairness – to simple, positive behaviours like ensuring female voices in the room are heard and valued equally, it is the responsibility of every man – just as much as every woman – to break down barriers and cultivate a more representative industry.

As employees continue to empower and support each other to grow, men should remain open-minded, and be a strong voice when it comes to not letting gender, age, or any other differentiator limit opportunities given to those around them with talent and hunger.

On the part of female leaders, their role in influencing the next generation will be crucial. Continued activity, vying for opportunities and not being afraid to say ‘yes’ when chances arise to further their own paths are among the most powerful things they can do to inspire those next in line.

In the drive for equality, undoubtedly, there is more to be done, with everyone having a part to play when it comes to shifting existing imbalances and making the tech sector a much more attractive, diverse, and inclusive industry for all in the future

By Alex Ford, President, North America, Encompass Corporation