Orange Bus Analyst, Benedicta Makin, takes a look at what it means to be a woman in tech by surveying some enlightening statistics, on a day which commemorates one of the great mathematical pioneers.
Today is Ada Lovelace day, founded to celebrate the achievements of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM).
Women consume as much or more technology than men, but are less involved as decision-makers and workers in the field. The giants of Silicon Valley report a lack of suitable women and minority candidates for them to hire, and this is borne out by long-term data-sets from the US which show a fall in the percentage of women studying and working in computing. The percentage of women compared with men in computing in the US has roughly halved since the late 1980s (from 35%-40% down to approximately 20%).
“Tech” is a broad sector, but all the the UK numbers show a sector that is predominantly male. The chart below combines statistics from several sources showing that women entering IT are outnumbered by men, that they leave early, and that the ones who stay continue to be out-numbered.
[Statistics from: Deloitte’s Technology, Media and Telecommunications Predictions 2016]
Initiatives intended to bring in more young women at entry level include careers resource packs for use in schools, campaigns to provide relevant work experience for young women, and events like hackathons intended to engage and inspire young women.
Retention of women in Tech careers is a world-wide issue. 8 years ago, the Harvard Business Review reported that internationally 41% of women and 17% of men leave the technology industry after working in it for 10 years. Deloitte, rightly or wrongly, attribute this to factors such as “policies not suited to women, such as marathon coding sessions, expectations around not having children, and lack of childcare”.
However, there are small changes that any organisation can make which contribute to a cumulative effect. This checklist includes actions like providing role models and reviewing the wording of their job adverts.
Sky have launched a “Get into Tech” training programme to bring women in via a sideways path, for example as the result of a career fork, and Women in Tech’s Back to Work programme supports women returners. Women who bring experience of business operations with them can move into roles like Project Management, Service Design, Testing or Business Analysis.
Women entrepreneurs are supported by the 5050 Tech Challenge which mentors and supports women who create Tech start-ups, and it is encouraging that policies to address the imminent skills gap by supporting women into Tech are being proposed at a governmental level.
Women role models are also celebrated in the Women in IT Awards, Computer Weekly’s list of Influential Women in UK IT, and one off lists like Business Insider’s list of the Coolest women in UK Tech.
Things have come a long way from the time when when Ada Lovelace published the first machine algorithms putting her in the history books as the first computer programmer. So although there is a problem of not enough women in tech, there are also initiatives to support awareness and change at every level.
More about initiatives: