Gender diversity is becoming critical in the technology sector
Christopher Burke, CEO of Brickendon, argues that to improve innovation and creativity a grass roots approach is needed to encourage more women into the technology sector…
The concept of women in technology, or in any senior business role, still grabs the headlines. Names such as Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer and Virginia Rometty are paraded about as impressive female role models with the aim of showing that women are capable of doing anything and everything. So why do females remain underrepresented in this flourishing sector?
Throughout history there has been a wealth of British women working in technology. Ada Lovelace is believed to be the first computer programmer, while Steve Shirley (Dame Stephanie Shirley) started her company Xansa in 1962, employing predominantly female programmers1. Despite these notable and inspirational figures and the fact that women represent half of the available talent pool, women only make up 13% of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) occupations2.
Women fare slightly better in finance, with females accounting for over 40% of employees in the securities, investment banking and commodities industries. Yet in fintech, a sector acclaimed for its innovation and talent, the figures make for shocking reading. There is only one female chief executive across Europe’s top 50 fintech companies, while women hold less than 5% of executive roles3.
It has therefore never been more urgent to prioritise diversity and create a technology sector that mirrors the modern world.
The absence of women
While it is widely acknowledged that diverse groups are stronger, more creative and more innovative, the lack of women in technology is having a fundamental impact on the way we live and work. For example, the launch of the Apple Health Kit was widely criticised for not featuring women’s health, while some recognition software has not been programmed to identify female voices4. If more women worked in technology it is likely these problems would not have arisen, because female innovators tend to place more emphasis on integration and collaboration. Without gender diversity companies lose a whole host of different perspectives and creativity, which can in turn impact on their financial performance as they fail to meet the needs of their consumers.
However, encouraging diversity in technology cannot solely be achieved at an executive level. Instead we should look at the grassroots.