Why more women in IT will benefit us all
Digital Women are under-represented in the UK tech sector, and business suffers as a result. Now trade bodies are taking action to attract more girls to STEM careers.
Women make up only 17 per cent of tech professionals, a figure that has remained unchanged for three years. Women, employers and the UK are losing out as a result.
Doniya Soni, policy manager for skills, talent & diversity at tech sector trade body techUK, says: “It's not just a question of political correctness. Increasing the number of women in the tech sector makes good business sense.” Research shows that publicly-traded companies with male-only executive directors missed out on £430bn of investment returns last year, while gender-diverse companies are 45 per cent more likely to improve market share, achieve 53 per cent higher returns on equity, and are 70 per cent more likely to capture new markets.
Soni says: “Researchers have also found that an office split evenly along gender lines could increase revenue by roughly 41 per cent Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 per cent more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians.” Employing more women also means companies reflect the user market. The average gamer is not always a teenage boy. “Women make up 52 per cent of gamers, because the games market includes mobile phone apps, and women are their biggest users,” says Soni.
Failing to address the needs of female users costs companies money and opportunities. She cites the case of a health app created by an all-male team that was much celebrated at launch. “Then women pointed out that it did not include an ovulation and menstrual cycle tracker. It had to be relaunched later with the tracker added in,” she says.
Women also bring to organisations valuable skills sets. A Deloitte report recently found that the UK will benefit most from a workforce with a balance of technical and more “people” skills, such as problem solving, creativity, social skills, and emotional intelligence. Research suggests that women are more likely to have social skills and higher emotional intelligence than their male counterparts.
techUK is working to encourage more women into tech careers. “We are working on a number of projects and initiatives this year to increase the number of women in tech,” says Soni. “Our programme looks at how to address the issue throughout the pipeline. We do this by looking at how to get girls into STEM subjects, encouraging more women returners into the sector, and working with Government on policies such as gender pay gap reporting and the independent Women on Boards review.”
As part of their Youth in Tech initiative, WISE and techUK have produced the People Like Me information pack about STEM careers, which includes lesson plans for teachers, including a quiz to help girls identify roles that suit their personalities. “We are also working to digitise the packs so they can be fully accessed online. It will also include videos of female role models, and online training for teachers, parents and careers advisors to deliver the pack content,” says Soni.
Hopefully initiciatives like these will help people understand more about what a career in tech really means,” says Soni. “It is not always about fiddling around with technology on your own. It is about using technology as a tool to make a tangible difference to everyone's lives.”