5GCorner OfficeExpert Opinion

What’s Holding Back Women in Technology?


The number of women in IT/tech roles in organization has increased in recent years. So while one can be hopeful about women in IT, recent findings from Kaspersky’s new Women in Tech report, Where are we now? tells a different story.

According to Kaspersky researchers, in the recent survey, while more than half (62%) of women in tech in APAC region, have seen levels of gender equality improve in their organization over the past two year, (at all levels) the impact of COVID-19, with 46% of women say they’ve been held back from pursuing career changes since March 2020 because of home pressures, and only 40% of males in APAC reporting the same.

More than any other region, both men (53%) and women (50%) across APAC believe COVID-19 has delayed their career progression, but the hope is that it won’t be detrimental to overall gender equality.

An online global outlook, designed to support the research findings, also shows how progression is moving at a different pace in different regions: from Europe where the gender balance seems to have actually worsened over the past two years; to North America where the move to homeworking may have accelerated the balance; to Latin America, where education is driving empowerment among young women in tech; and finally, APAC, where intimidation among women is now being overtaken by success stories.

To ensure women’s positive career experiences are reflected right across the globe, key steps and initiatives are needed to support a career in tech, including the provision of more mentoring or internship programs to provide access to opportunities and experience. But in order to instill a belief that the tech industry is a place for women to work and succeed, the journey needs to start much earlier.

“The issue of gender stereotypes needs to be addressed long before women enter the workplace. It needs to start at school, to engage and encourage an interest in IT and tech fields. The first step in a new direction is always the hardest. Without a supportive environment, girls can struggle to find kindred spirits in online communities or at relevant offline events. They need to see that IT professionals are ordinary people with diverse skillsets and abilities, and that anyone can aspire to join the tech space,” comments Noushin Shabab, Senior Security Researcher, Global Research & Analysis Team at Kaspersky.

Many companies across the globe are also beginning to introduce quotas that guarantee more equal representation across workforces. More than just adding numbers, they are designed to increase the likelihood of altered behaviors and reduced sexism in workplaces, more women reaching senior positions, and the creation of more role models who can share positive career experiences to young women who are considering entering the tech space. However, quotas aren’t the only way to maintain momentum and ensure further progress for women in tech.

“There is a famous saying that ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’. In the past few years, there have been increasing calls to improve the representation of women in technology and IT… While quotas can represent a relatively quick way to address the issue, the technology industry has proven to be institutionally misogynistic in ways that mean even quotas are insufficient for addressing the gender imbalance or aiding the progression of women to senior IT roles,” comments Dr Ronda Zelezny-Co-Founder and Director, Panoply Digital, and Ada’s List member.

Zelezny recommends implementing blind hiring practices that help remove personal biases from the talent acquisition process. This includes removing identifying information from applications, amending the language in job adverts to eliminate sex-bias in favor of male candidates, and ensuring that candidate selection is free from
bias by using diverse hiring committees (instead of individuals), recruiters trained to eliminate bias from hiring processes, and perhaps eventually truly intelligent algorithms created by diverse teams that can help with the candidate identification process,” explains Zelezny.

She adds: “Tech and IT sector employers committed to more gender balanced
workforces should undertake regular assessments of the policies and procedures they have in place, with
women, to ensure they still result in progressive movement for female colleagues. One of the main reasons we are not realizing a faster pace of change in this area is because too much of the activity surrounding gender equality in IT focuses on one-off gimmicks and bandaid solutions that can be spotlighted in the press, instead of focusing attention on female employees and the actions that will truly make a sustained difference in their professional lives.”

Dr Patricia Gestoso, Head of Scientific Customer Support at BIOVIA and 2020 Women in Software Change makers Winner agrees that there isn’t just one way to accelerate progress, but that the whole ecosystem needs addressing.
“Given the systemic nature of factors accounting for the low representation of women in leadership positions in tech companies, a multi-pronged strategy is needed to address the issue by both governments and businesses,” she confirms.

“Tech companies can improve the gender balance by applying measures such as mapping the full employee experience and identifying instances where bias is likely to influence their career path, and plan for tools and processes that mitigate human and automated biases on decision-making. For example, the strategies that are successful for increasing the proportion of female managers may depend on factors such as women’s ethnicity and care-giving responsibilities.

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