We’ve talked a lot about the need to improve the visibility and presence of women in the technology industry here in the US. As major tech giants such as Google, Facebook, Apple have started released diversity reports on the makeup of their staff, others such as LinkedIn have recognized these reports mean the public are going to start holding them accountable and have pledged to improve diversity quotas by certain dates to ensure it they are not just “all talk”.
As Techcrunch reported in 2016, despite women making up 50% of the US workforce, in the tech sector they only represent 30% on average, which doesn’t sound entirely terrible, but when it comes to leadership or specific technical positions, that number drops to 15%.
In the UK, women represent only 27% of the digital industry which is actually DOWN from 33% in 2002. The number is expected to rise again to 30% by the year 2020, but without specific focus on getting women and girls into the STEM pipeline early and restructuring digital work environments to retain women at higher levels of leadership, the progress is going to be slow.
One of the solutions has been to set gender quotas, which some agree with and others do not, for various reasons. Twitter made an announcement in 2016 saying it plans to “build a more inclusive” workforce, and focused on searching for more female and minority talent to fill its ranks, especially in areas of leadership. It turns out their comprehensive approach to their gender quotas has worked, and they have not only reached their targets in some areas, but surpassed them in others.
Within their diversity and inclusion initiative was the focus on training and skills development, ensuring they are not only searching for talent, but retaining it also. This is the direction one UK startup is taking in order to fill the gender gap in the technology sector.
Structur3dpeople, a recruitment company that specializes in the IT sector, has launched an important campaign to close the gender gap. The #GettingMoreWomenIntoTech initiative aims to recruit 1000 women in the tech sector across the UK by 2020, by focusing on developing key skills they can use in the workplace. The initiative will include mentorship programs in London, Liverpool and Bristol, which the company believes is an important part of encouraging more women in the tech sector.
“Mentors and role models are pivotal in developing skills as well as providing confidence, building resilience, encouraging aspirations and advancing careers. I am excited to see such great results already from the programs where we are increasing the female talent pipeline in addition to progressing more women into leadership and developing female founders,” said Structur3dpeople’s director, Rav Bumbra.
ITpro.uk reports that this isn’t the first time the company is looking to make the tech industry more inclusive, as they launched three programs last year, helping 70 women land executive leadership roles. The participants reported a higher level of confidence in their abilities to pursue such roles when they felt they had enough support along the way.
“We want women working in any tech role to collaborate with us and step forward as role models. You cannot be what you cannot see and this campaign is a great way to show the next generation what a career in tech looks like,” Rav Bumbra added.
Being a recruitment firm, they are well placed within the industry to identify and promote talent to various companies which use their services. Their website makes it clear of their mission to help diversify the tech industry with their initiatives.
“Structur3dpeople want more people to have the opportunity to reach their potential, irrespective of their race, gender or background. By developing the skills of women through a number of mentoring programs, Structur3dpeople’s aim is to help more women progress into leadership, tech and startups,” it says.
In an increasingly digital and global world, where tech skills are becoming a core requirement of the current school-aged generation of youth, it is imperative that companies understand being more inclusive is more than just a nice idea, it is important for their business. People of diverse backgrounds are able to bring unique experiences and knowledge to the boardroom that can help expand their reach in places they may not have already thought about.
When you look at how instrumental technology has become in the developing world, especially for rural women to have access to financial empowerment, safety, healthcare and education, the technology industry must take the lead more aggressively in finding the right talent outside of the default white, straight, male stereotype that does not represent the entire planet.
If Structur3dpeople’s initiative is successful in helping UK companies add more female talent to the IT sector, it may help the representation of women across the UK reach beyond 30% by the year 2020.