Why women representation in tech is integral to building an inclusive and innovative digital future
Many industry experts worry that if women continue to be underrepresented in the technology industry, the tech products and algorithms driving the future will contain an inherent bias against women, due to their conspicuous underrepresentation/absence in designing the technology of the future.
Saturday February 11, 2023,
5 min Read
Women’s competence has been demonstrated in all fields. There are many exemplary female professionals who have made history through their stellar accomplishments. However, while people explicitly claim that gender diversity is important in the world of work, it is still a distant dream in most industries including technology, which is traditionally dominated by men.
Research conducted reveals that the top 50 companies in India (by market cap) showed that women account for only 25% of the total employee strength, this is disheartening since the number of women graduating from educational degrees, including STEM-related ones are at par with men. What is further alarming is that this number further dwindles as we look at the number of women in senior positions.
The Skillsoft Women in Tech report of 2022, elaborates that women only held 7% of executive-level positions and 13% of senior leadership positions in the technology industry. Further, the study stated that 66% of the women surveyed said that men outnumber them in leadership positions in tech organisations at ratios of 2:1 or even greater
Women’s underrepresentation in the tech industry is a cause of concern for many reasons. First and foremost, the situation presents a conundrum for India Inc., which aspires to build a future ready tech talent pool yet, is missing on the huge opportunity to bridge this gap by nurturing female tech talent.
Further, many industry experts worry that if women continue to be underrepresented in the technology industry, the tech products and algorithms driving the future will contain an inherent bias against women, due to their conspicuous underrepresentation/absence in designing the technology of the future.
Many also fear that tech workplaces will end up with leaders who all look/think the same and hence product innovation would suffer, as it will fail to incorporate the needs of a diverse set of users and integrate women’s perspective. Further, since tech jobs today are some of the fastest growing and most well paid jobs in the world, this perpetuates and further widens the existing gender pay gap.
Some of the causative factors contributing to this gender imbalance in the tech industry is unconscious bias in hiring, lack of equity in opportunities available to women, limited or lack of women role models and mentors in the industry, fewer assignments to higher visibility projects, not enough skill development and resources and support available to women in the field.
Further in addition to this are the women’s obligations of being a child bearer and the primary maternity carer, sometimes also being the primary caregivers at home. This sometimes leads to quitting due to burnout, or makes return to work after a hiatus (eg. after maternity leave) a difficult path for many to be on.
Especially in male dominated environments, women often feel that their opinions and capabilities get overlooked or are often perceived to carry less authority. Further, they feel they need to work harder as compared to their male colleagues to prove their competence.
The lack of female perspective in the workplace, can drive the creation of toxic and exclusive work cultures, commonly also known as a tech bro culture, which can be characterised by private in-jokes, offensive lingo, and harassment.
Women representation in tech is integral to building an inclusive and innovative digital future. Having said that, much needs to be done to address gender inequality in the tech industry beyond simply encouraging the number of female professionals to pursue a career in technology. The first step is to sensitise business leadership and cultures about diversity, equality and inclusivity to create supportive environments for women to foster in. Additionally, there needs to be a concentrated effort to address this imbalance by providing equitable access to resources to address skill gaps, providing equal professional opportunities and a voice platform to women not only to raise concerns and express opinions, but also to gain visibility for their professional accomplishments.
Women need to be inspired and encouraged to strive for senior level and leadership positions and the lack of role models and mentors to be plugged by sponsorship schemes to define their unique career trajectories. Further, to ensure their biological obligations do not impede their career progress, organisations should aim to provide them the balance and flexibility they require during the demanding and sensitive times of their lives like maternity.
Having gender diversity doesn’t only enable alternative views and significant product innovation. It also directly impacts business. A study by Boston Consulting Group showed that companies with higher gender diversity had 34% higher business revenues than their counter-parts which lacked adequate gender diversity. The tech industry and those who work in it will significantly shape the future of the world, hence it will be only prudent if women have more representation in defining that future.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)
Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan