Women in Tech: Why isn’t the sector appealing to women?

Wednesday, March 08, 2023. 4:38pm
Women in Tech: Why isn’t the sector appealing to women?

Only 22% could name a woman who has made a name for herself in technology

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we continue our conversation with female Guestliners working in tech roles. In a society that increasingly promotes inclusivity, diversity and equality in the workplace, technology is still not seen by women as an attractive career prospect with less than 20% of roles held by females. While strides are being made within other traditionally male-dominated industries, tech is still falling behind in attracting and retaining female talent. We discuss why roles within technology are failing to appeal to the female workforce.

We speak with:

  • Zsuzsanna Tomescu – QA Team Leader
  • Pamela Grubich – Junior Developer
  • Julia Kopatzki – Junior Product Owner
  • Evie Cowie – Quality Assurance Tester
  • Bruna Lima – Developer

Misconceptions about working in the sector

A common theme that ran through our discussion was the general lack of awareness about what a career within tech involves. Images of late nights in dark rooms, desk-bound, with little human interaction still prevail but the reality, according to our panellists, is very different. All our participants commented on the breadth and scope of opportunities, with varying roles of tech requiring a wide spectrum of skills.

Bruna was attracted to her Front End Developer role as it allows her to exercise her creativity, something not generally associated with tech roles, which are known more for their analytical bias. As technology infiltrates more and more of our day-to-day routine, there is an increasing requirement for tech projects to incorporate an understanding of psychology when exploring design and usability, again not something typically associated with a tech career.

Our five Guestliners were all surprised at the variety of opportunities that fell under the ‘tech’ umbrella and the different skill sets different roles require. It was suggested that there needs to be greater promotion of how diverse careers in technology can be and of the variety of skills required if the sector is to attract more females.

Few female role models 

One point that came up in the discussion was that for four out of five of our panel, a career in tech was not even on the radar when at school or college – little was known about roles in tech and there was an absence of female role models to inspire them. ‘I can name Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and similar, but it’s a struggle to think of a woman who has broken through within the tech world’ says Zsuzsanna.

Even high-profile women who work for ‘tech’ companies, such as Sheryl Sandberg are typically associated with commercial roles instead of traditional tech backgrounds. This is supported by a recent PWC study*, which said only 22% of those surveyed could name a woman who has made a name for herself in technology.

The situation is bleaker when we look at representation at a senior level within tech. For ambitious females who are looking for both career development opportunities and to recognise their full potential, an industry where women hold only 5% of leadership roles may be perceived as hard to make a name for yourself and achieve leadership positions.

Lack of confidence 

Also discussed was the widely held perception that tech roles are ‘too difficult or too technical’ which can be off-putting in what is seen as a male-dominated environment, especially one with no female role models to inspire. ’Women are more wary of pushing themselves forward,’ says Bruna. ‘Women have the potential but can lack the confidence men have and therefore hold themselves back.’  Julia agrees saying given the male dominance within the sector ‘it’s hard for women sometimes to be heard as they can lack the confidence of men.’

Tech not seen as supporting more humanitarian roles 

In a recent PWC study*, 50% of females interviewed say the most important factor when choosing their future career is ‘feeling like the work I do makes the world a better place’ compared to only 31% of men. Roles in tech are not typically associated with drives to have a positive impact on the world but all around us, technology is increasingly supporting efforts to drive improvements. Most notably in the field of healthcare and humanitarian efforts.  

One only needs to look at the role technology is playing in the disaster recovery efforts in Turkey and Syria following the recent earthquake to see the importance of technology in supporting humanitarian efforts.

Concerns about work-life balance 

For women considering motherhood, the perception of a career in technology requiring long, unsociable hours doesn’t sit well with the demands of raising a family. The tech industry as a whole is not seen as supportive of motherhood with a survey in 2021 seeing 72% of female IT professionals believing their career is still suffering because of childcare and family responsibilities.

‘There is also a perception that if you take time out to start a family, you will find it hard to get up to speed on your return’ says Julia. ‘There needs to be more education about how flexible a career in tech can be.’ Even removing the motherhood question, life as a tech professional is associated with long, unsociable hours, and when combined with the other challenges women face outlined here, this further contributes as to why a career in tech may not be a preferred option for women.  

The encouraging news is that there seems to be signs of a shift over recent years, driven in part by the ‘sexy’ tech giants of Google, Facebook and Amazon being perceived as ‘cool’ places to work. In addition, the infiltration of technology more and more into every aspect of our lives – we can now manage everything from dating to finances via apps and technology – has raised awareness of the variety and scope of tech roles.

‘I think as tech becomes more integrated in our everyday lives, with talk of AI, and also the ability for many roles now to be managed remotely, tech careers will become more attractive,’ says Bruna. ‘I have more friends asking about what a tech career involves. There is also an association with competitive salaries which increases its attraction’

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