I want to be a techie! Let’s work together to improve gender diversity and equality in the tech industry.
Today is International Women’s Day. There is much to celebrate, but also much to do in equality and parity, not through quotas, but through education and training. I am a woman and I work in technology, so I am part of that fortunate minority percentage that is lucky to be recognised.
I like to use data to support my statements, so I’ll start with some statistics that will give us a picture of the current situation.
In Spain, according to data from the Ministry of Education for the academic year 2016-17, only 28% (51,511) of the students in the field of engineering studies were women, compared to 72% (130,062) of men. In the computer environment, the figure is even lower: 12% (5,463) of the students are women and 88% (39,965) are men. In the field of science, the last course was more equitable, with 51% (43,301) male students and 49% female students (41,543). Today there are initiatives and organisations that try to drive change, encouraging girls to study programming code, and with the help of women leaders in technology it is possible to reverse these statistics.
In 2016, only 13% of leadership positions in STEM companies were held by women. However, although the percentage is low, Spain seems to be the “pilot project” of many technological multinationals to test female leadership capacity. Fortunately we have great patriotic names in them who are doing a great job, raising the bar high and holding the flag for all. Rosa García Siemens CEO, María Garaña and Fuencisla Clemares of Google, Irene Cano at Facebook, and Marta Martínez at IBM. And a very special mention for two women whom I admire and had the immense pleasure of meeting in a talk by the I + E Foundation, Helena Herrero, President of HP Spain and Portugal and María Benjumea, CEO of Spain StartUp.
Although technology is dominated by men, when given the same opportunities, women are also capable of leading. With the added advantage that tech companies do not have the historical burden of other industries such as automotive or banking. However, although the first steps are being taken, there is still a long way to go. Recently Google published its staff statistics: 70% were men, 30% were women. In addition, only 21% occupied leadership positions and 17% held technical positions. Other technicians jumped on the bandwagon, LinkedIn, Yahoo, Twitter, Pinterest, eBay, Apple and Microsoft also released more detailed statistics of their workers.
We are moving forward, recognition is the first step to change, but we can still do more. We, as individuals and as leaders and companies that want to embrace change.
- Improve education at school, but also at home. Children cannot love what they do not know. We have always heard that “Spain is a country of letters” and that the disciplines of science are taught, except for honourable exceptions, in a traditional way – without enthusiasm and without leaving the script. Engineering, technology, design and coding are matters that should be stimulated from an early age for all children, regardless of gender, so they come to enjoy them and love them, so that in the future they may want to dedicate themselves to it.
- Technology is cool!
Not just for “nerds” or “pringaos”. Unfortunately, even one of the series that I adore, “Big Bang” falls into the stereotype.
- Let’s group together. I know it is hard, but we must defend our plot and pave the way for those who come behind us. And here comes the difficult bit. Not only must we maintain our position and be constantly demonstrating our worth, but we must also take action. It is important to protect other women, teach them the pitfalls they will find and the skills they need to make the learning process faster and more effective when facing situations that are new for us. Even encourage women to look for a patron. Not only protect, teach, or advise them, but also to give them projects and opportunities.
- Let’s give opportunities and work recognition. Working in different positions will give women knowledge of the industry, not just the theoretical training they may have received. At the same time, it will give them visibility and we need them to come to light, be recognised for their work and even become “influencers” and “prescribers”. It is necessary to educate the new generations, but there are already women who play fundamental roles in the industry. Let’s give them a voice, so they can serve as a model for future leaders.
- Include women in the Board of Directors. Even royalty has abandoned the Salic Law – by the way, I recommend this Netflix documentary series about the pioneer queens of England. If we want changes in leadership and equality for the new generations, we have to plan changes in the direction. Not only in the equality of genders, but also of race.
- Let’s promote our company as one that favours diversity and transparency.
Let’s act, stimulating diversity and equality and let’s make it public. Take the example of companies like Google, which have published their statistics, but, above all, work to ensure that the gender gap is reduced, and not only in certain positions.
- Let’s give up prejudices. Some advocate blind CVs to equalise opportunities and avoid conscious or unconscious prejudices.
- Educate in our companies. It is not about eradicating men, but about giving equal opportunities.
- Let’s look inside. There may be women in middle management who could play a large role in the management of the company. Let’s make sure that they have opportunities to grow within the same.
- Finally, let’s follow example and learn from the successful companies that have championed change.
I can only say that the changes may seem slow, but as I like to say, you eat an elephant in pieces – only figuratively, I would never eat such a beautiful animal. Small steps will get us very far. But, above all, it is not a fight of the sexes, but a process of education that will bear fruit.