Andrew Maeer, Director, Amsource Technology Limited, reports on gender diversity and women in technology.
As a recruitment consultancy specialising in the digital technology market, we operate on both sides of employer/employee engagement relations. We can see exactly who is being placed where and in what roles, and we speak to a wide variety of organisations across multiple industries so hear about who they want to hire and what their criteria are for hiring individuals. These industries include IT services, gaming, ecommerce, charities/non‑profits, software houses, financial services, digital media companies and law firms.
Undoubtedly, there is a significant difference in the number of women working in IT/tech to men. Over the last three years, just 10% of the candidates we placed were women, which is a significant disparity. Figures suggest the total number of women working in IT in the UK is around 20% of all roles according to the Office for National Statistics which matches the numbers we are placing.
Positive viewpoint of women in IT
This isn’t to say women don’t hold prominent positions in organisations or the industry as a whole. Examples such as Martha Lane Fox, Sherry Coutou and Nicola Mendelsohn are prominent in the global technology world.
What we are seeing amongst our clients a very positive viewpoint around women in tech and gender diversity. Diversity is high on their agenda – a balanced workforce brings a mix of skills, attitudes, viewpoints and team dynamic. If companies could hire more women they would, provided they had the right skills etc. What we haven’t seen is moves such as blind applications – irrespective of gender what our clients need are the right skills – the sex of an individual won’t make any difference if they can’t write code, create test cases or deliver projects.
The challenge around balancing the gender bias within tech will be a generational change, through raising awareness amongst females that the tech industry is a realistic and viable career choice, and by providing support to enable access to training and development. This isn’t just through traditional methods such as university but through pro‑active initiatives. Code Club is the real kick‑starter in this by bringing technology to school children at an early age when they are at their most impressionable and allows children to see that modern tech isn’t necessarily all about science, maths and engineering. These disciplines historically were very much seen as ‘men’s jobs’ and initiatives such as these will definitely help to change how they are viewed, and Code Club is supported by individuals and organisations who can deliver training sessions.
In Yorkshire, Sky has an open learning initiative to provide free access to women to complete coding sessions to see if tech is a career they could pursue, when ordinarily they may not think it as a realistic opportunity. One of Sky’s senior managers, Natasha Sayce-Zelem, who doesn’t have a formal education background in IT, also leads the Ladies of Code meet up in Leeds and is an example of the success women can achieve in the industry.
A fantastic initiative also in Yorkshire is the WISE Campaign, led by Helen Wollaston, which aims to inspire girls and women to study and build careers using science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). WISE also advises organisations on how to create environments where women can thrive, which is key to allowing women to continue developing their careers. Simple ideas such as flexible working hours and more working from home can help support women during the time they choose to start a family and where they are the primary carers for their family.
One thing I can be wholly unequivocal about is that in 13 years recruiting in the digital/IT space, with 6+ years owning and running my business not once have I, or any of my team members, had a decision in a hiring process made around a candidate’s gender. This is both when taking a brief to commence a search, and during the decision-making process at CV review or following interviews.
Our clients hire on skills, personality and attitude. Irrespective of gender, candidates are hired on the basis of their suitability to the role and organisation, and this again ties into the fact we need more women entering the industry along with providing opportunities for individuals to enter the industry through a career change by providing the awareness and training opportunities.
We have started to see a rise in the number of women working within IT and technology, through the numbers we are placing and the numbers of women we are speaking to on a daily basis. This is across the majority of disciplines but we have to continue to see an increase. At an event we held recently for Women in Test, there were a number of discussions around the make‑up of the teams the attendees worked in.
There were a number of comments that some testers didn’t work with any other women in their teams, which needs to be addressed.
In conclusion, the tech industry is a fantastic opportunity for women to be successful, and we should be championing the existing women in the industry whilst providing the platform for entry into the industry and the giving the support and the right environment for women to grow and develop to change the disparity in the numbers of men versus women working in the industry.
Edited for web by Cecilia Rehn.