Pouring over the weeks' industry magazines, I'm almost hit in the face. Fewer than 25% of information technology jobs in developed countries are held by women. As a female working at Tribal Group, an education software and services company, I almost spill my tea. I knew the gender divide in tech roles was skewed, but I never knew how much.
I continued to read another technology survey carried out by Computer Weekly magazine, which informed me that women still only make up 11% of tech roles, citing that whilst awareness of women in tech was growing, perception was still a problem (according to 49% of the survey's participants).
Who's perception? What perception? I had so many questions.
Tribal is an empowering company. We not only aim to empower the world of education but also the communities that surround education - and women in tech is a growing community that I felt empowered and, quite frankly, a responsibility to look into a little more…
I walked into the meeting, I'd never been to one before. It was a Women in Tech event and I'll admit I had my reservations. Yes, I work for a tech company, but I couldn’t code, even if my life were dependant on Java script. I am a marketer by trade. Would they take one look at me and know? Would they even let me in? I needn't have worried.
"Our short term goal is to bring women together and to encourage the collaboration, communication and empowerment of women in technology to bridge the gender divide and get more women involved in tech opportunities. Our longer term goal is not to exist."
That was the opening address from Helen, the keynote speaker, a casually dressed woman with a friendly smile and a slightly excitable nervousness.
I glanced around the room. To my delight, it wasn’t a room full of stereotypes but one of diversity - differing ages, role types and reasons for being there. I met a UX designer, an engineer, and, of course, I am a marketer. Yet it wasn’t really about what you did but more what role you wanted to play. What's more, the group has a 'bring a bloke scheme', a way of promoting inclusivity. I was still surprised to see in a room of 35 people at a women in tech event - that nine people were male.
I learnt that women in tech is not necessarily about being 'gender blind' but more so about celebrating anyone that does good things that they passionate about. Unintentional gender division is not a stereotype I've had to deal with before. In the marketing team at Tribal there's a 55% / 45% split women to men (we’ve come a long way from the days of Mad Men’s secretaries and cigarette girls.). The marketing management is an equal split and everyday I'm inspired by both men and women - as I am with younger and older team members. My point is, everyone has something to bring to the table.
Take a walk around most software development companies, startups, construction firms and other businesses that employ engineers, developers, database experts and other technology-types and you’ll see an overwhelming percentage of males working there. Studies have shown that Google, Yahoo! HP and other large tech firms have disproportionate numbers of males vs females working at their companies.
At Tribal 25% of all tech roles are held by women and over a third (34.6%) of all female employees at Tribal are in a tech job. Tribal has a Women in Tribal initiative and graduate placement schemes that aim to be inclusive and get young people, men and women, thinking about a career in technology. For any moral compass, the reasons to do this are obvious, but let's look at it a little more closely.
At Tribal 25% of all tech roles are held by women and over a third (34.6%) of all female employees at Tribal are in a tech job.
One popular theory as to why women have not been adopting a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) career in droves, is that within our culture there's an unconscious bias. The best way I can introduce this concept is in the words of a five year old who once said "Girls and boys have the same brain, they just use it differently". Sadly, not all children have the same expression of thought. Learned behaviours from parents, school, their culture and society surroundings provide them with enough of an unconscious bias to stereotype and form opinions which are not even their own.
Tribal works to empower educational establishments around the world with technology, guidance and support that gives those learning the very best chance of success. The work of the National Centre of Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (ran by Tribal) aims to empower the teaching of mathematics to appreciate gender learning styles and to get the very best from everyone looking to explore a future involving maths, and possible future tech careers. You can read our Women in Tech Edit for more research on this.
There's never been a more visible time for women than right now.
With International Women's day on March 8, the recent US women's marches, the explosion of female empowerment in recent years, a female UK Prime Minister and very nearly a first female US President, the gender divide IS getting smaller, but with events like Women in Tech still in the midst of their short term goal, I couldn’t help but think there's so much further to go.
The cinema release of the bio-pic Hidden Figures looks to celebrate the unsung heroines of the space race, and the efforts that had been mainly ignored by history. Would American astronaut John Glenn have made history as the first man to orbit Earth in 1962 if he hadn't put his life in the hands of the work of the brilliant young African American mathematician Katherine Johnson? Working quietly and diligently, Johnson grafted tirelessly behind the scenes at NASA processing reams of data and took her role as a single parent just as seriously. In an era where sexism (and racism and social segregation) were ever-present - Johnson's incredible brain began to bring down barriers. In previous footage of this era, women weren't anywhere in sight. Johnson coped with the door being slammed in her face, coped with having to make coffee from a separate 'black person' kettle, and yet no one at NASA ever had to ask her to do something again, they knew that if she gave them an answer, it would be the right one and her unflappable nature earnt her access to all-male classified meetings. Now, at 98 years of age, Johnson says "[Hidden Figures] shows girls that, if they want to do this kind of work, they can."
Would American astronaut John Glenn have made history as the first man to orbit Earth in 1962 if he hadn't put his life in the hands of the work of the brilliant young African American mathematician Katherine Johnson?
We're much further forward than 1962. If Katherine Johnson embarked on her career now, she would certainly be more celebrated and doors would be firmly propped open. Yet Katherine's personal drive had a lot to do with her career choice. She chose that career, despite it being difficult, despite the odds being stacked against her favour.
Now, with open doors everywhere and an active encouragement from businesses, teachers, parents and society - there's no reason why our future tech floors shouldn’t be filled with more diversity… and articles like this one will be long forgotten as a moot point.
And anyway, let's be real here, Beyonce seems to be in charge of things now.