Where are all the women in tech?

We unleash niche tech heroes

As International Women’s Day imagines a gender equal world, research shows the tech industry is still lagging far behind when it comes to being a truly diverse place to live and work.

And while the 8th of March should be an annual opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments and progress that has been made, it’s also important to realise that we’re also on a journey that is still some way from its final destination.

To shed light on some of the inequality that still exists across different tech ecosystems, Revolent has collaborated with one photographer to highlight some of the statistics that exist around the number of women in tech through a series of powerful images.

This is what gender bias looks like...

“It’s incredible to see the power that our individual actions can have as a collective. For all the amazing strides that have and continue to be made, there is clearly a long way to go. And while organizations need to pull their socks up and take action in order to shift the dial in the right direction, it’s clear that every single person in the tech community has a part to play in helping the industry to level up.”

Nabila Salem, President at Revolent

So why does the data on gender equality still look like this? “I think it’s the culmination of years and years of cultural mis-alignment,” suggests Salesforce MVP Eric Dreshfield. “For so long, society (in general) has had ‘norms’ for what men and women can and can’t do. Simply put, we are all humans, and as humankind has proven over and over again, we can accomplish anything we put our minds to. It’s time for the culture of gender-specific roles to go away. Men, women, transgender, non-binary…we are all human and deserve the same access to live, love and work how and where we want.”

He also added that there’s a need to continue drawing attention to the problem through data, as without a vast, robust and continual statistical analysis it’s impossible to understand how big the issue actually is. So, what do we do once we know the true scale of the battle ahead of us?

What comes first?

On the subject of leadership, it goes without saying that the problem starts with levelling up the number of women in tech. Without that, and the continued support networks that allow them to forge lasting careers, there simply won’t be enough women that remain long enough to reach senior leadership positions. There’s far needs to be done to support them on that journey of course and while it’s also very much a chicken and egg situation, the more visible role models there are in boardrooms around the world, the more women will see tech as a viable long-term career option that enables them to flourish and progress.

Although that may be a long-term shift, the good news is that there are a number of changes that can be made immediately in order to attract a more gender diverse workforce. “There are a wide variety of roles within tech which aren’t pure developer based that require a range of skills,” added Salesforce MVP Amanda Beard-Neilson. “When promoting the tech industry, be more open to using imagery that reflects these different roles than the stereotyped person sat in front of a black screen coding. Some people may not be attracted to that type of job and may not be aware of other roles where their skills may better fit.”

She also added that she’s made it her goal this year to speak out in uncomfortable situations like that, although Eric adds that the onus shouldn’t just be on women to speak out. He added: Those of us who are not directly victimized by this have a responsibility to support those who are by showing up, speaking up, and taking action to help right the wrongs as well as providing educational opportunities to all in order to lessen future occurrences.”

Encouragingly, there are plenty of other things that can be rectified immediately in order to have an impact. “In our everyday language we subconsciously use words that are not inclusive,” said Amanda. “One such term is the use of ‘guys’. I hear both males and females use this term to reference people, but essentially it is a male reference. I am often the only female in meetings with male counterparts and have felt the use of ‘guys’ rather grating on me.”

The end result

Amanda also talked about a move to more gender-neutral wording in job ads, so removing the need for ‘coding ninjas’ and ‘warriors’, and instead looking at the actual skills needed to succeed in specific roles—such as problem-solving, an ability to stay calm under pressure and communication. Not only will these give you a better fit in terms of the candidates applying for a role, but it’s likely to open you up to new pools of talent, which also helps give you the edge as the digital skills crisis grows.

And while the primary motivation should always be that it’s fundamentally the right thing to do, both Eric and Amanda pointed towards the benefits for any organization that’s truly committed to levelling the playing field. Studies have shown that diverse groups of people working together can produce more robust solutions as each team member can provide a different viewpoint to a problem,” concluded Amanda. “Promoting a culture where people can be their authentic selves, encourages mindsets to work freely and openly challenge opinions without fear of reprisals.”

Eric agreed, adding that although the result would be humans feeling empowered to be their true and authentic selves, “a more diverse workforce has a more diverse way of thinking, which translates into higher profits.” In short, those changes to the way we support, nurture and champion female talent will have a wide-reaching effect.

So, as we all champion and celebrate our successes this International Women’s Day, it’s also important to look around us and continue to ask questions of ourselves and those around us. Where are the women in tech? What am I doing to champion the females in my organization? Will I speak up? What can I do to break the bias?

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