Helping more women to explore technology careers is not just a case of being ‘the right thing to do’.

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Promoting the value of diversity and inclusion is also about more than merely giving women the same encouragement and opportunities that men have benefitted from for a long time.

It’s about addressing the imbalance that is threatening to disrupt and damage the entire industry, and creating a technology sector that lives up to its full potential.

The economic impact

We are all part of this digital age, an age in which technology is driving huge change and development in every walk of life.

Getting more people interested in technology from all backgrounds will create a stronger and more diverse industry that benefits the whole of society.

What evidence is there for this? Well, quite a lot as it happens.

It’s thought that increasing the number of women in IT could contribute a staggering £26bn to the UK’s economy. What’s more, there’s evidence that gender diverse companies are:

  • 15% more likely to experience increased performance
  • 22% more likely to experience lower turnover rates
  • 14% more likely to experience higher average comparable revenue

Simply put, more women in tech (and a more balanced industry) is good for business.

Still a lot to do

Yet, despite all of this, it still seems like there’s a lot of work to do in order to encourage more girls and young women to seriously consider the possibility of working in the technology sector and seeing it as a viable career path.

This is because only 15.8% of students enrolled in undergraduate computing courses are female.

If young women aren’t being encouraged to consider studying towards technical degrees and qualifications, how are we supposed to then encourage them to explore the idea of working in the industry?

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More than one way into tech careers

It’s worth mentioning of course that having a tech-focused degree is far from being the only way of entering the technology world.

Helping more women to explore technology careers is not just a case of being ‘the right thing to do’.

Many people teach themselves the skills (such as coding / programming languages) required to break into the sector, while others gain an interest or experience further down the line, not to mention the vocational routes that exist as well.

You only have to look at the profiles of the women working in tech that are featured on our Wall of Inspiration to see how many different pathways into tech exist.

One step forward, two steps back?

So it appears that two things are certain – firstly that greater equality in tech makes the sector stronger and more profitable, and secondly that there are many routes into the industry.

Getting more people interested in technology from all backgrounds will create a stronger and more diverse industry that benefits the whole of society.

However, despite the apparently clear evidence which suggests there shouldn’t be anything standing between women and tech careers any longer, what seems clear is that many companies are finding it hard to eradicate the corrosive attitudes that still exist within.

Take for example the recent high-profile case regarding the tech giant Apple, in which leaked emails seemingly brought to light the organisation’s “toxic work environment“.

Inappropriate jokes, stereotyping, subtle sexism and being forced to work in isolation are a few of the damaging allegations that have been thrown at the Silicon Valley-based multinational. This is despite the fact that 32% – essentially a third – of its global workforce are women.

While it’s undoubtedly important that such toxicity comes to light, in order to force real change, could such cases actually have a detrimental impact on the efforts being made to get more girls and women interested in technology?

After all, if it’s true that such corrosive environments still exist throughout the sector, how is that going to help to entice more women to consider careers in the industry?

A rotten Apple?

However, just because Apple seems to have some internal issues, it doesn’t mean that all comparable companies do.

An organisation that employs 115,000 people will find it hard to weed out all instances of prejudice, and it only takes one high-profile incident to potentially mar an entire company and its conscious efforts to promote diversity and equality.

As with all such cases, it’s hard to work out whether this is an unfortunate but ultimately rare occurrence, or something that genuinely runs deeper and highlights ingrained attitudes.

Inclusivity with Includeed

However, better reading for Apple comes in the form of Includeed’s diversity data rankings table, in which the tech giant ranked in 30th place.

As with all such cases, it’s hard to work out whether this is an unfortunate but ultimately rare occurrence, or something that genuinely runs deeper and highlights ingrained attitudes.

Includeed was launched to, in the initiative’s own words, “obtain transparent data about any company, at any time” and “compare companies on a multitude of criteria such as how many women are on the company’s Board”.

With such programmes becoming more and more prominent, there’s a much greater focus on how diverse and inclusive organisations are now than there ever has been before.

This is something companies must react to, and it’s hard to see why they wouldn’t. After all, which company wouldn’t want to be number one and recognised as a leader in diversity?

We can only hope that such efforts, combined with the evidence that more diverse organisations achieve more success, are enough of a catalyst to convince all business leaders that diversity is more than merely a ‘want to have’ – it’s a ‘need to have’.

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