As digital developments continue to diversify the way people work, innovators should be doing the same – and that means giving a voice to a range of tech talent.
There has been much debate concerning women in tech and the role they play, but – even with vast transformations happening daily within the industry – there is still some way to go to ensure that females are seen as leaders and true influencers in the field.
Things are improving yes, but it’s a slow process.
So, why is it taking so long for the sector to open up and embrace the key role that females can play to push tech forwards?
It’s no secret that this has been a male-dominated industry for many years but, as digital developments evolve, organisations must take responsibility and move with the times too. They should also encourage change-makers to feel comfortable enough to enter into the arena in the first place.
It’s an exciting time, so why is tech suffering a skills shortage on such a global scale? Maybe it’s because the talent available feels under-represented and the sector isn’t as inclusive as it should be? And, that’s something all businesses have a duty of care to challenge.
This needn’t be merely a ‘tick box’ exercise either, but rather firms should showcase just how cool tech is, and why people now don’t necessarily need digital qualifications in order to be a success in this field.
The industry is vastly different to what it was five or 10 years ago – and the modern day workforce is too. Now, employees need to be great collaborators, creative thinkers and effective communicators, because that’s what the sector requires.
And, none of that comes down to gender.
What it does involve though, are soft skills – many of which can often be overlooked by organisations. Yet, having such personable and professional traits is becoming more important to the tech sector as more automation comes into play, and employees are released into meaningful work.
The ability to work in small teams positively – whilst being analytical and learning quickly – is just as important as having digital qualifications, maybe even more so. There is also a requirement for empathy and warmth, as understanding the needs of each team member – and keeping the group motivated – during challenging times is key.
All this has to be communicated by tech businesses, to encourage those job-hunters who may feel overlooked when applying for tech-based roles, particularly those which focus solely on having a computer science degree, for example. Statistics show that on average only 20 per cent of girls at Key Stage 4 take a computer science GCSE and only 17 per cent of the tech workforce is female.
Many people will also remember the Hewlett Packard report some years ago stating that men will apply for a role if they meet just 60 per cent of the criteria, whilst women won’t unless they hit 100 per cent!
It’s important to empower talented females to apply for tech roles, and inspire the next generation of digital leaders. And, they absolutely don’t need to be tough bosses in order to do so, they merely need to be dedicated, encouraging, and given the confidence to make a difference.
This industry cannot afford to lose out on more strong female change-makers simply because they haven’t been represented from the get-go.
Employing a diverse range of people who focus more on how and why things work in tech – and who have critical soft skills – will help workers feel valued, and part of an inclusive environment.
If not, the sector will continue to roll out machine learning and AI technology with built-in inherent bias that has been developed predominantly by white males – and could prove to be a dangerous notion which will have far reaching effects. Why? Because businesses cannot build digital solutions on top of data that is not representative of all the people that may use it.
There is a sea of change occurring, and it’s up to those in the industry to inspire the next generation of tech leaders and mentors – known for their aptitude, attitude and what they bring to the table, nothing else.
Rachel McElroy - chief marketing officer at Wakefield-based