about 1 year ago by Silvana Hawkes

Why is there still a lack of women in IT leadership roles?

Woman working in tecnology sector

According to research by PwC just 17% of Tech/ICT workers in the UK are female, a figure that has remained about the same for over a decade.

So little change in over 10 years for an industry that is soaring. The UK is the No. 1 top scaling tech nation in Europe and is increasing its lead in the world daily. The latest figures from Tech Nation for 2020 show that in only a year technology investment in the UK soared by 44% to over £10 billion, more than Germany and France combined.  For fintech the UK is second in the world, with investment rising by over 100% in the last year alone.

With all the investment comes new employment opportunities which has seen UK tech employment grow by 40% in the last 2 years, now accounting for 9% of the national workforce with 2.93m jobs created.

So where are all the women?

There is no simple reason nor a simple solution, but there are clear areas that are contributing to the ongoing problem.

Yes, more women than ever are choosing a career in the technology sector and pioneers have begun to make their claims for leadership, but too many women are still encountering challenges too great resulting in only 5% of leadership positions in the technology sector being held by women.

The pipeline for female talent, although improved, is still a primary reason why women are underrepresented. Further research by PwC highlights that:

  • Only one in ten females are currently taking A-Level computer studies.
  • Only 27% of female students surveyed said that they would consider a career in technology, compared to 61% of males, and only 3% said it was their first choice.
  • Just 9% of female graduates in 2018 studied a core STEM subject, according to education campaign WISE.

The gender gap in technology begins at school and then carries on through every stage. Clearly more information and education is needed to inspire women.

A lack of female role models in the industry also makes a negative impact. Only 22% of students can name a famous female working in technology. Whereas two thirds can name a famous man working in technology. This of course can reinforce to young and influential girls the perception that a technology career isn’t for them - over a quarter of female students say they’ve been put off a career in technology as it’s too male dominated.

The image of the industry frankly doesn't help either. Numerous stories circulate about the male dominated culture in tech firms and how women who do make it struggle - past research by Harvard Business Review showed that in the US women working in STEM fields were 45% more likely than their male colleagues to quit within a year.

There is a however a new generation of women who are making more demands - more than eight out of 10 female millennials in Britain say they seek out employers with a strong record on diversity, equality - and as the job market is very candidate led more and more businesses are trying to sell themselves on their employer brand and how much they value culture, diversity and work-life balance.

Government backed initiatives such as the Tech Talent Charter are also driving change by bringing together industries and organisations to commit to adopting recruitment and retention practices to create a more diverse tech workforce however there is still much work to be done.

The fact remains that the technology industry is still an industry predominantly dominated by white males and so often many initiatives such as a company always having a female board director are ‘one off’ initiatives - it took Airbnb 10 years to add their first female board member in 2018, two years before its planned IPO.

We believe that the demand for STEM talent globally will drive the real change needed as companies will simply be unable to ignore or lose all the capable female tech talent out there and will be forced into making the necessary changes.

At DP Connect ensuring diversity in the workplace and promotion of women in technology has always been our priority, after all we were founded way back in 1990 by a woman, and female empowerment remains our priority today. This is why our senior management team is made up of 50% women and why we have won awards such as Recruiter Magazines ‘Most Effective Flexible Working Strategy' award.