Written by Niamh James
Within the tech industry, women make up only a quarter of employees and just 11% of its executives. Over the years, technology has become increasingly intertwined with human life. Women, making up half of the world population, have a lot to contribute both as users and creators of technology. At OnePlanet we actively recruit women as we believe we will create better technology because of it.
Underrepresentation of women in the technology industry
The underrepresentation of women within the tech industry boils down to stereotyping, gender bias and misconceptions about what jobs in technology entail. There is a common assumption that men are better suited to careers in science and technology. This stereotyping impacts the way women are presented with opportunities even at the early stages of their lives. Research shows that girls are less likely to study STEM subjects at school and this gap continues to widen through to university. Many young women are unaware of the variety of careers available within the technology industry so do not consider pursuing this path. A study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that girls lack confidence to pursue high-paid careers in science and technology, despite their school results being more than sufficient. For those who do graduate with a STEM degree, it is more difficult for them to attain and retain a job in the tech world.
Women’s ability to succeed in the tech world is hindered by gender bias within the industry’s culture. An analysis by MIT, which spanned over 30-years-worth of data, found that women were disadvantaged from employment opportunities in tech due to hiring processes. Women were only eventually hired when special efforts were made to specifically find female candidates. This is not surprising if we consider that the vast majority of senior tech roles are held by men and studies have shown that hiring managers tend to recruit those who are culturally similar to themselves. This behaviour repeats itself when funding tech start-up companies. A substantial chunk of tech start-ups are backed by venture capitalists (VCs) of which 93% are men. This is problematic because men tend to invest in other men instead of female-led businesses even though they tend to generate higher returns with smaller investments.
Human life is becoming increasingly intertwined with technology and is set to continue doing so. One of the main consequences of women being underrepresented in the tech world is that technology products and services are being created and provided based on predominantly male perspectives. The extensive research of Caroline Criado-Perez in her book Invisible Women demonstrates the negative impacts that arise when we fail to incorporate all points of view when designing our world. From phones being designed too big for the average woman’s hand to women being 47% more likely to be seriously injured in a car accident because the vehicle is designed for men, a lack of female representation has real consequences.
On top of this, many women working within the tech industry have reported experiences of gender discrimination at work and feel that they have to work harder than their male counterparts to prove their worth. For women who are Black or minority ethnic, racial bias becomes a further barrier to advancing their careers in the tech world.
The involvement of women in designing and implementing new technologies would not only be beneficial in making them more inclusive, it is better for business too. Evidence suggests that women have enhanced abilities in areas such as problem-solving and emotional intelligence. Numerous studies have also shown that companies with more diversity tend to be more innovative resulting in higher revenues.
Whilst financial gains are important, our current climate demands new technologies that will aid us from the inevitable ecological collapse that we are faced with. When pursuing a career, women are more likely to choose roles that they believe will make the world a better place whereas men tend to follow paths based on salary. A key cause of climate change is the pursuit of capital and consumption regardless of its destruction to the planet and people. Therefore, having a higher representation of women in the tech industry, especially in senior roles, will help to bring things back into balance where technology can be designed to be good for the economy, the environment and people.
Attracting women into higher-paying industries like technology would also help to reduce the gender pay gap and gender inequalities within the workplace.
How might we achieve this?
Getting more women into the world of technology starts with education and challenging gendered stereotypes. Schools and universities need to make conscious efforts to present young women with the same opportunities as they would young men. However, the tech industry also needs to make efforts to recruit and promote women into such roles. There also needs to be more mentoring opportunities presented to women in order for them to grow in their careers.
At OnePlanet, we are very happy to share that women make up over half of our team and that two out of three of our coders are women! We believe that celebrating diversity leads to innovation and better problem solving, which will be key to the success of OnePlanet and creating technology that is good for both the planet and people.