Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges: Inspiring Inclusion on International Women’s Day

The tech industry has made significant progress in bringing more women and girls into the field throughout the recent years. International Women’s Day highlights this growth, yet also acts as an indicator that there is still lots to be done in order to reach the level of gender equality we are striving for.

A recent report looked into diversity in UK tech companies and revealed that only 26% of the tech workforce are women whilst 77% of tech director roles are filled by men. Whilst this number has significantly increased since the early 2000s, when women made up just 9% of the tech workforce, it shows that there is still a significant gender imbalance and a lot to do in order to achieve a more equal workforce.

This year’s campaign theme for International Women’s Day is ‘Inspire Inclusion’ which focuses on celebrating diversity and empowerment. The aim is to inspire others to understand and value women’s inclusion, hoping to collectively forge a more inclusive world for women. In tech, there are several areas which could be improved in order to minimise the stigma of women in tech and create a more inviting environment.

Barriers for women in tech

There are several barriers for women in tech resulting in the substantial gender split in the field. A few examples would include lack of role models, representation and encouragement at education, as well as gender bias once women get to the workplace.

Kayle Underkoffler, HackerOne

Kayla Underkoffler, Lead Security Technologist at HackerOne, says: “One of the main barriers for women in tech is the lack of structured, work-sponsored opportunities to learn and excel in a new technical role.”

She explains how organisations could support this and the benefit that it could offer, stating: “If more companies offered the opportunity for women to transition from a more business-oriented role to a more technical role with education and support provided, more women would have an opportunity to bridge into technical roles.”

Michal Lewy-Harush, Aqua Security

Michal Lewy-Harush, CIO at Aqua Security, adds that opportunities for women in tech are limited but a gender balance can be created by  ensuring that these equal opportunities are accessible: “We need to ensure that once women do get into the technology sector, they have equal opportunities. This is where organisations come into play – they must ensure that they remove any bias when it comes to promotions, opportunities and salaries.”

Supporting women in the industry

The support shouldn’t end once women overcome these barriers – it is vital to create an inclusive environment that allows them to continue progressing in a tech career.

Caroline Seymour, Zerto

Caroline Seymour, VP of Product Marketing at Zerto, explains: “Proactive measures such as adopting inclusive hiring processes, implementing female-led mentorship programs to support women’s professional development, offering flexible work arrangements, creates a supportive and inclusive work culture, and ensuring equal advancement opportunities for all employees, regardless of gender.”

She goes on to discuss further benefits of this by stating: “These efforts aim to empower women, promote gender equality and foster a more diverse and inclusive workplace so that women thrive in their careers. The lack of gender diversity particularly in the tech industry requires our continuous attention and action.”

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Changing perceptions

Arguably one of the main factors in achieving gender equality is changing the perceptions that are still unfortunately very present for women in tech. There is an unconscious bias towards men over women which directly affects the industry.

Svenja de Vos, Leaseweb

Svenja de Vos, CTO at Leaseweb, explains how changing perceptions of women in tech can be achieved: “To change perceptions, more female role models are needed who, supported by practical initiatives like training, open days and internship opportunities, can help to create a more compelling image for the tech industry as a sector that’s fun and rewarding to work in.”

Starting from a young age

A significant part of the gender inequality problem is that young girls are not encouraged to pursue STEM subjects or careers. Many women do not see a career in tech as an option for them.

Sheena Blanco, Next DLP

Sheena Blanco, Head of Customer Experience Next DLP, discusses how as soon as the educational opportunities were presented to her, she fell into a career in tech: “Back when I was at school, Information Technology wasn’t even on the curriculum, but during my first year at Stirling University, I discovered computer science. It was through my interest in learning computer languages that I found my true calling and embarked on a stimulating and rewarding career in technology. What is clear from my journey is that there is something in STEM for everyone.”

“My advice for any girls or women taking up studies, or considering a career, in STEM is to go for it. On this day, we must remember that women have already contributed to STEM in some extraordinary ways, and this is only the beginning.”

A call for celebration

But it isn’t all doom and gloom – International Women’s Day calls for celebration and recognition of the achievements of women in technology as well as ongoing need for diversity, inclusion, and gender equality in this dynamic and influential sector. It encourages a collective effort to create a tech industry that is more representative, supportive, and welcoming for everyone.

Caroline O’Connor, Six Degrees

Speaking about Six Degrees’ own Women in Tech group, Caroline O’Connor, Chief Legal Officer at Six Degrees, states: “This group was created and is run by employees of all genders with a passion for ensuring that Six Degrees fosters a culture where every individual feels valued, respected and empowered to contribute their unique perspectives and talents. That is why this year’s theme of #InspireInclusion resonates so deeply with the aims of our group and the initiatives we drive forward. It is only by embracing diversity in all its forms that we foster innovation, collaboration and belonging at the heart of everything we do.”

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