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What can businesses do to encourage women to join the tech industry?

As tech innovation redefines how we study, work, and live, achieving and maintaining gender balance in the tech industry is of vital importance. So, what measures can businesses put in place to encourage women in tech to stay and progress?

According to Boston Consulting Group, Australia faces a labour shortage of 18% by 2030. A skills gap in the IT sector is responsible for the bulk of this shortage. 

As such, the tech sector is calling out for talent to fill a growing number of roles. And as only 16% of employees in STEM fields are female, companies are becoming committed to advancing women in STEM, recruiting more women, and encouraging them to stay in the sector. 

In this blog post, we discuss how businesses can support women in tech and STEM to remain and excel in the sector.

Women working in tech

Why do we need women in STEM?

Diversity is important in all industries but is especially vital in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Many studies, including one by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, have found that a diverse team is usually more successful than a more homogenous one, as people from different backgrounds have different perspectives and therefore approach problem-solving differently, ask more varied questions, and come up with more innovative solutions. This leads to greater scientific success which benefits everyone. 

Despite the clear need for more women and more diverse teams in science and tech, the inclusion of women in STEM in Australia is actually falling. In 2020, the number of women in STEM roles fell to 13% from 14% in 2019. 

So, how can this be rectified? We’ve looked at several ways that women can be supported to join the tech industry and stay to progress their careers in the sector.

Creating an equal culture

Rather than considering the lack of women in tech an HR issue, tech CEOs need to take practical steps to ensure they create an equal culture throughout their businesses.

By making gender parity a business priority, and speaking out publicly about this, tech CEOs can show that they are taking the issue seriously.

Global IT services provider, FDM Group, is a good example of a company that has wholeheartedly embraced this approach.

FDM Group’s women in IT initiative, spearheaded by COO, Sheila Flavell, encourages and supports women to excel as IT consultants. What’s more, the company has reported a 0% median pay gap for two consecutive years.   

Sharing career success stories

A way that tech companies and the wider media can encourage women entering the tech sector to stay and excel, is by celebrating successful women in tech.

When women are in the minority in a company, it can be hard to envisage climbing the ladder unless the success stories of other women are publicly shared. Businesses could highlight and celebrate their female employees’ wins in internal communications and publish blogs on their website about women doing great things for the company to encourage others. 

Offering mentorship schemes

Research suggests that 45% of women who start careers in STEM are more likely to leave within a year than men. Offering mentorship schemes is a powerful way to counter this trend. 

Giving women in tech the opportunity to learn from, and be supported by, senior women in the company will help them to feel valued and empower their progression. This is a key way to ensure women want to fill and stay in tech roles. 

Women in tech - shared spaceAddressing maternity discrimination

To keep women in tech roles, businesses need to take maternity discrimination seriously.

Those taking maternity leave should be supported in their return to work. Offering flexible working hours is a progressive way to combat maternity discrimination.

It is crucial that companies take a zero-tolerance approach towards any managers who are not supportive of those taking maternity leave. Any claims of maternity discrimination should be taken seriously and investigated.

Men throughout the company should be encouraged to take paternity leave to reduce the stigma around it. Currently, only 1 in 20 Australian fathers take primary paternity leave, which is far below the global average. If senior men in the company are vocal about taking paternity leave to support their partners and children, they may encourage younger colleagues to do the same.

In time, having a child will no longer be seen as something that slows women in tech down in terms of career progression. Instead, the hope is, it will be seen as something that affects both genders equally.

Creating gender balanced speaker line-ups

Women are less likely to stay at a company if they do not feel represented by it publicly or through internal events. 

Ensuring that there is an equal gender split between speakers at company-wide events is important. It helps junior women envisage being the one up on stage when they reach a senior position, and increases diversity of thought throughout the business.  

Similarly, when a company gets invited to send speakers to external events, it is important that they put forward a gender-balanced panel. 

The public face of the company should reflect the gender equal culture that the company is aiming for. Putting this kind of consideration into speaker panels helps women working at the company feel seen, represented, and valued. 

Using inclusive language in all communications

Research suggests that using masculine language in job adverts may alienate female applicants. But job adverts are not the only place where language matters.

When a company creates its tone of voice guide to inform how the brand should be portrayed in internal and external communications, emphasising the need for inclusive language is paramount. 

The brand voice can affect whether women feel included or excluded when they read company updates or see external marketing in the wider media. Inclusive language is more likely to encourage women to envisage a future with the company.

Women working in the tech industryTakeaway 

There is much that businesses can do to support women in tech to excel and encourage more women to stay in the tech sector.  

Fortunately, businesses across Australia and beyond are taking note of the benefits of gender diversity. Many are working hard to embed approaches that create and sustain a gender-balanced workplace into their core business strategy.

As the tech sector approaches a global worth of $5 trillion, there has never been a more exciting time to progress your career in tech.

Our professional development courses will help fast-track your success. Get in touch with our expert career consultants today.