I know through my work with technology clients, and reading the trade press, that attracting and retaining female talent is a huge challenge for the industry. Yesterday, I attended the Women of Silicon Roundabout event, which in just two years has grown its number of attendees from around 250 to over 4,500. This is indicative of both the growing demand among companies for female talent – the conference attracts big name sponsors – and the appetite among women in technology for career advice and networking opportunities.
There’s a lot of debate around how to fix the issue of under representation – but it seems to be largely down to communication. Most importantly, communicating to school children, students, career changers and more, that the opportunities a career in technology presents are vast, varied, and often extremely rewarding. Also, there are many different paths that can lead to a technology career.
At PwC’s stand, the company made it clear that they are looking for people who have a passion for technology – no matter what their degree subject is. Only two of the six job areas that they were recruiting for required a technology related degree. I think there’s still a widely held assumption that you need to excel at maths in order to pursue a career in technology, and that a tech job is synonymous with a coding job.
It’s interesting to note that Martha Lane Fox, who gave a rousing speech at yesterday’s event, studied ancient and modern history at university, not computer science, or maths. At the Avanade presentation, they spoke about how Artificial Intelligence lacks creativity and empathy, therefore the technology industry really must embrace the arts and ethics. It’s clear that the future technology workforce not only needs to be diverse in terms of the type of people it hires, but the type of skills they possess.
Finally, another vital role that communications should play is in educating business about the benefits of having a diverse workforce and of course, gender is just one aspect of diversity. At the conference, Dell highlighted a McKinsey report that showed a link between diversity and financial performance. Companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 21% more likely to outperform on profitability. Companies in the top-quartile for ethnic/cultural diversity on executive teams were 33% more likely to have industry-leading profitability. Diversity makes business sense.
Despite hearing of the challenges that women in technology can face, I left the event feeling positive that the number of women in the industry will increase. Not only is this important for gender equality, but it will also help our technology industry to flourish.
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