As a woman working as a developer for an IT company, I consider myself somewhat of an experience expert when it comes to the question of gender diversity in the tech industry. But does this mean that I also hold the solution for redressing the gender balance in that industry?
Not really. The hard and bitter fact is that there is no such thing as “the” solution to this type of problem. As with similar or related social issues, such as sexism and racism, there is no one single magic formula that can quickly and easily redress the balance between men and women working in our industry.
The magic is in the mix
So far for the bad news, however. The good news is that there are in fact several actions we can take to improve gender diversity in the tech field. And as usual, the magic of any real and effective solution lies in the mix of those actions.
Role models: inspiring by example
For girls and women to be able to see themselves as working in IT, they need to believe that goal is within their reach - in other words: attainable – and that the work required from them is actually doable. They also need to see other women succeed in that specific field of work. Hence the importance of role models to help inspire more women.
There is a catch here, though, for if we only show superwomen, so to speak, who were born extremely gifted and never once had to struggle to enjoy an amazing career, we risk achieving the opposite effect. We might actually be putting women off a career in IT again – maybe even more so than before. Unreachable role models could indeed have that negative impact. So, in order for this strategy to really pay off, role models have to be well and carefully chosen.
What would help a great deal already, in that respect, is if every woman working in the tech industry, from the junior developer to the CIO, would simply be her own advocate. And if all those women not only shared their success stories but also their journeys to success. Including all the problems and difficulties they came across along the way – and managed to overcome.
What definitely doesn’t help, on the other hand, is that so many women still hesitate to showcase their work for fear of being perceived to be boasting or bragging. Or because they are hampered by perfectionism and fear their work simply won’t measure up to that of their male colleagues. Accept imperfection, is my advice to them, and dare to talk about your achievements, however small or insignificant they may seem to you.
Quotas: making room for women
The use of quotas for women is probably the most hotly debated question in matters of gender equality. The reason why this solution stirs up so much emotion is that most people, especially those in positions of power and authority, tend to refute the fact that they are privileged because of their gender, ethnicity and/or family background. Therefore they see quotas as unfair to them and their peers. The huge irony being, of course, that if they truly believed their success was entirely due to their own personal achievements, quotas shouldn’t worry them in the slightest.
Privileged people often refuse to acknowledge that some groups of people are underprivileged and therefore underrepresented, and that not belonging to the dominating group really makes everything that much harder. They are also denying that a fair society would distribute opportunities fairly amongst all groups and allow everyone to be represented fairly.
At the end of the day, if given equal opportunities from the start, women are just as capable as men to work and thrive within the tech industry. So there really is no reason to accept a situation where they’re kept from making decisions and/or from participating in innovation.
Finally, let us not forget that, since the number and variety of jobs on offer in the tech industry is so high, there is definitely room for employment for everyone – man ánd woman - who is sincerely interested and motivated. But more about that in my next blog post.
If you wish to find out why gender diversity in the workplace matters in the first place, check out this previous blog post.
Would you like to learn more about Sopra Steria’s mission and values as an employer? Check out the Careers section on our website!