Technology is still a man’s world
The technology industry might be booming, but in 2015 women are still vastly under-represented in many areas of science and technology. Martha Lane Fox, the founder of Lastminute.com told the annual WIRED technology conference last week that “right now, the percentage of women in the tech sector is smaller than the percentage in parliament, as a whole”.
Women have had a hard slog over the years to make an impact in industries that have been traditionally dominated by males. Even in areas such as modern technology, it was mainly men that came to the forefront of new technology and assumed the top jobs in tech industries. Let’s be honest – when you think of a big name or personality in the technology, who springs to mind? Maybe Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Page? It is apparent that technology industry is still a man’s world.
The genders are still out of balance even today
Despite the hard work of a growing number of determined and talented women pushing the boundaries of traditional roles over the past 40 years, by 2012, still only around 14% of engineers were women. Beliefs concerning women’s inability to get into engineering and tech careers are not true.
Many women do actively start out to pursue a career in engineering, but according to research conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, around 40% of female graduates with engineering degrees either never enter the field or leave after a very short time.
The same applies for tech industry where women leave an industry with the highest starting salaries in the world, simply because it is still a very male-centric work environment. Some women have quoted the lack of family-friendly working hours, fewer opportunities for promotion and lower wages compared to their male colleagues as contributing factors.
Diversity is considered to be a hot topic amongst tech companies, from corporate giants to early stage start-ups. Although they are taking action to be more diverse in terms of gender and ethnicity, the numbers speak for themselves:
- Google: 70% male, 30% female
- Apple: 70% male, 30% female
- LinkedIn: 61% male, 39% female
- eBay: 76% male, 24% female
Male Vs Female skill set
Many years ago it was more natural for men to take the lead and dominate industries where their physical strength gave them an advantage. Physical factors were important to heavy industry, building, canal and railway building and engineering as they all required an element of heavy lifting that would have been too unseemly or too physically demanding for women to undertake on a day to day basis. It is this domineering attitude that had been at the background of human life for centuries and so has taken many years to shake off in society let alone in the workplace.
The male and female skill set has changed dramatically over the past century and even more so in the last 50 years. Many studies have shown that a mixed gender team in the workplace gets better results. The most successful formula is to have a mix of hard and soft skills.
Women excel at communicating ideas and can keep discussions and negotiations rational and calm. This can help to bring a sense of balance to a headstrong male-dominated team that can sometimes only see things in their own way. An added benefit for the business bottom line is that companies across all business sectors that are more gender diverse perform better financially.
According to an investment banking survey of 100 teams, it was found that ‘gender balanced’ teams were more likely to share knowledge, experiment, be creative and fulfil set tasks than single-sex teams. France’s National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies has also found that technical work teams that included female members were better at staying on schedule and completed their tasks with lower project costs.
Martha Lane Fox, the founder of Lastminute.com and chancellor of Open University states that Britain needs “an army of women warriors” and calls for Britain to set a global standard for equality in the tech sector. We should not go backwards in a field that is supposed to be all about moving forward!