The Tech Gender Gap Isn’t Closing Quickly Enough

04 December 2018
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The gender gap that exists within the IT sector has been well documented. It begins at school, where girls are less likely to study STEM subjects than boys, and it endures throughout each stage of the career ladder.

Plenty of efforts have been made to secure parity across the sector. Yet the gender gap shows little sign of closing. In fact, research from PwC found that just 27% of female students would consider a career in tech, with just 3% saying it was their first choice. Two-thirds said they haven’t been given enough information on what it’s like to work in a tech role; while a quarter say the industry is too male-dominated.

What’s more, our own Industry Insiders research found that the gender gap is feeding into a brand-new tech discipline: voice technology. We found that the gender breakdown of voice specialists is heavily weighted towards males, with an 84% to 16% split of men to women. Significant efforts are being made to promote the tech industry to women, particularly those who are at the beginning of their career. Yet, it would seem that the fruits of these labours are yet to emerge.

The gender gap that is emerging within voice technology should be a particular concern to industry leaders, since these are the individuals who are setting the rules on how cognitive technology will interact with human beings. If women are excluded from the development process, there is a significant risk that gender bias will be inadvertently embedded within the software. Enterprise adoption of voice technology is set to enter the mainstream within the next two years. If these technologies adopt the biases (unconscious or otherwise) from the individuals that develop them, the ramifications could be significant.

 

The Road to Gender Parity in IT

 

In the IT world, one of the biggest barriers to progress is an entrenched male culture. Women working in organisations of all shapes and sizes often acknowledge the same familiar obstacles – a lack of role models, a lack of access to sponsors, and gendered career paths into support functions like HR and Communications, instead of IT.

The bright side is that many men also recognise that this needs to change. And, as the majority of leaders setting policy are male, they have the power to make change happen. But it won’t occur by itself. IT leaders need to work to shift the needle. It’s not easy to change people’s attitudes in the wider workforce. But leaders can change the way they lead their teams, embed their organisational culture and measure performance, to help their people thrive. It’s this type of proactive work which will progress the journey to parity.

Building on our own commitment and experience, we have identified seven practical steps that can help IT leaders to close the gender gap across their teams:

  1. Get everyone onboard – it’s important that the IT professionals who already working in your team recognise the need and take responsibility for working to overcome unconscious bias.
     
  2. Leadership willingness – for commitment to be authentic and aligned with business strategy, change must ultimately flow from the top and be demonstrated by the leadership team.
     
  3. Challenge assumptions – moving the needle requires a wholesale rethinking of culture, policy, opportunities and the workplace.
     
  4. Hire people who value people – companies should look to recruit IT professionals who place value on human performance, output and potential.
     
  5. Be consistent – businesses must create a culture that promotes consciously thinking about inclusion as if it was a business objective.
     
  6. Be explicit – look to develop a tailored programme to enhance the competencies of individuals who have the desire and ambition to excel in their careers.
     
  7. Be accountable – by setting clear goals and expectations, IT leaders can develop a structured process of validating promotion and hiring decisions.

Voice technology has a significant gender gap. But there are many, many more areas of the IT department that face a similar challenge. It’s an emerging discipline, so efforts that are taken to close the gender gap today can help to ensure this culture does not become engrained in the workforce. The time to act is now.

To learn more about the rise of voice of technology, we invite you to download our latest Industry Insiders report from Experis.

 
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