The perils of the persistent gender gap and lack of inclusion initiatives have been a point of debate for technology groups for years now. According to a report, women executives and girls are still lagging far behind their male peers in the digital realm. The report, Taking Stock: Data and Evidence on Gender Equality in Digital Access, Skills, and Leadership highlights why women and girls in various roles in the technology industry fail to get their voices heard.
Today, we spoke to Senior Women Executives from a specific industry – -Information and Communications Technology (ICT), who highlight various contexts, including education, jobs, and wages, security and privacy, access to learning new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and their career aspirations.
The UK’s latest GCSE results showed the gender gap in ICT has opened up. Five years ago, girls made up about 40% of entries for the ICT exam, but this year they accounted for only 21% of computing entries. But this isn’t an issue isolated to the UK!!!
In Australia, the University of Technology Sydney has lowered the entry score for female applicants in male-dominated courses to address the imbalance in Engineering, Computing, and Construction. And in the US, women are 12% less likely to earn math-heavy STEM degrees than men.
Gender Gap and Social Alienation Are Two-Faced Devils
Andressa Kalil, Director of Engineering, Tapad
In High school, I was always interested in Math, Physics, and Chemistry, so it was a natural progression for me to study Engineering at University. I enjoyed those subjects and was encouraged by my family and teachers to pursue it. At that time, Telecom companies were hot and the internet bubble hadn’t yet burst, so I thought it could be an interesting sector to enter.
“But it wasn’t until my first day at university, when out of a class of 50 people there were only four women, that I realized there was a gender gap. All of the women in my class felt socially excluded from our male peers; we weren’t invited to parties, sports, and other social gatherings, or included in classroom conversations about cars and video games because it was assumed these weren’t our interests.
“A few of us felt compelled to change degrees. One woman switched to design after three semesters in engineering because she couldn’t stand the social alienation. I even consulted a Psychologist and started a Second degree at a Business school, so I could feed my passion for Engineering, but also enjoy the social aspect of the University that’s so important. I’m glad I had the support of my mom and other female friends to quash my doubts when I started questioning if I was supposed to be an engineer.”
Also Read: TechBytes with Tal Mor, CTO, Taptica
Two Problems of Gender Gap: Bringing Women to Tech; Making them Stay in Tech
Laura Koulet, Vice President, Legal & Privacy, Tapad
“I think the best way to encourage more women to enter tech is to ensure that educational opportunities pave the way to technology. For that, we need community and educational institutions to invest in programs that support females and encourage them to continue to pursue educational paths that will bring them to the industry.
But another challenge is ensuring that women stay in tech. There are many challenges unique to women in the field and parsing them all can be a complex exercise. If you are a female leader in tech, the best thing we can do is to lead by example and share successful strategies for navigating a new and ever-changing industry, mastering time management, building communication skills, and coping with emotionally challenging days.
“For those of us that have liked being in tech and have found ways to be successful, each new work challenge can be an opportunity to share hard-earned insights and framework thinking that guide young professionals to growth.”
Finding Opportunities between Personal Aspirations versus Gender Gap
Preethy Vaidyanathan, Head of Strategic Initiatives and Program Management, Tapad
“My advice to young women in tech is to talk with others about your intentions, goals, and aspirations as well as your progress.
“I have seen – both for myself when I was younger, and in other young women– the desire to focus on improving and learning, but while keeping a low profile. What I have found is that when you make your goals known, even if you are not (or think you are not) where you want to be, others will come to you when relevant opportunities arise.
“I may not have had the courage when I was younger to raise my arm or ask to lead a project, but by making goals visible, I have seen peers, other leaders, and my own manager nudge me to take on new challenges. While outside of your comfort zone at first, these opportunities can be the best way to elevate your career.”
Friendly Company Policies Key to Let Women Thrive in the ICT Business
Ruth Manielevitch, VP of Global Business Development, Taptica
“It is frustrating to hear stories about the increasing gender gap in STEM subjects and careers. Young women need to be inspired at the earliest stage about the exciting opportunities in technology and how they can thrive in the sector. However, this isn’t just an educational issue – it is up to tech businesses to ensure their workplace culture is accessible and attractive for women too. This should include a flexible work/life balance as well as maternity cover.
“I feel lucky that at Taptica, we operate as a meritocracy; regardless of gender, race, age, sexuality or disability, everyone is encouraged to work hard and succeed. I have been with the business for over six years and incredibly proud that a majority of senior management are female. We also aim to cultivate talent from an early stage, motivating them to progress and stay with the business. This is a testament to how technology businesses should evolve with the times. Educating from a young age about the benefits of STEM careers is the first step, but tech businesses need to ensure they are providing a working environment that is inclusive for all.”
Digital-First World Great for Closing Gender Gap and Foster Inclusion
Carolyn Corda, CMO, ADARA
“While we have seen tremendous progress over the years in terms of greater gender equality with more women visibly in leadership roles, it’s generally agreed that we still need to do more to promote women – and especially BAME women – in the ICT sector.
“According to the Office for National Statistics, women currently account for only 16.8% of workers in the UK’s tech sector, and the Inclusive Tech Alliance recently calculated that close to one million women must be hired for the UK’s tech industry to reach gender parity. The stark gap between full equality is disappointing and it should be a reminder for organizations and businesses across the UK to be constantly guarded against biases and to actively promote female leadership in the tech sector.
“To ensure that the industry benefits from a diverse skillset we need to drive up the numbers of women in technology, and the time to start is during the school years when career visions are being formed. It’s a hugely important topic in a digital-first world and we need to consider what we can do to foster diversity and take action.”
We thank the guests from Tapad, Taptica, ADARA, and our PR friends – Propeller Group.
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