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MARCH 6, 2019 //     

International Women’s Day 2019: Gender inequality in the tech sector

By Lizzy Chesters

In the last twelve months, gender inequality and the mistreatment of women in the technology sector has been a consistent topic in the media. On International Women’s Day, we look at what is happening in the industry to tackle the issues at hand.

Of course, technology is well-known as a male-dominated sector. According to Tech Nation, only 19 percent of technology workers, and only 22 percent of technology directors are women. All companies with 250+ employees need to publish figures comparing the average pay of men and women across the organisation. The tech sector did not do well. An article by Wired found that across 18 major tech companies, women earn a mean average of 85p an hour for every pound a man earns. Women also receive bonuses that are around 35 percent smaller.

Sexism in the industry is also rife. A recent global survey by Ivanti found that 63 percent of women think gender bias continues to damage their professional opportunities. It also undermines their work environments. In a separate piece of research by Kaspersky Lab revealed that over a quarter of female IT decision makers say they witnessed mansplaining in their day jobs, contributing to the feeling of gender imbalance.

This International Women’s Day, the Campaign theme is #BalanceforBetter. The aim is to promote a more gender-balanced world. The technology sector needs to embrace this ideology. Even at the most prolific tech industry events, the gender imbalance is evident: where are the female attendees? Why is there a lack of women keynote speakers? It is time for a change.

What can we do to tackle gender inequality in tech?

Fortunately, there are a range of initiatives and technologies being created to tackle the problem. Firstly, technology companies themselves are trying to get more women to work for them. Sky is offering five women a £25,000 bursary, as well as an expert mentor, to inspire them to get into technology. Yes, it’s only five – but it’s a step in the right direction.

There are also several mentoring programmes for women in technology springing up around the country. Structur3dpeople and DevelopHer want to empower women. They want to bring women together to network and share knowledge to help them progress in what is a tough environment in which to excel.

There’s an app for that

In addition, there are a few new UK start-ups which are tapping into a need for employees to discreetly report sexual harassment. Vault Platform, uses blockchain technology to enable members of staff to record a private, time-stamped reports. These reports can include evidence such as text messages, voice recordings and emails. Then the victim can choose when they would like to submit the report to human resources. A digital receipt of the report is then kept on the blockchain, so it can’t be changed, stolen or deleted on purpose or by accident.

Are the big players helping?

Some of the major tech players have recognised that they are part of the problem. They are willing to spend some time and money to help. Apple has recently launched its Entrepreneur Camp, a programme designed to support women entrepreneurs building businesses around apps. The initiative incorporates an intensive technology lab, specialised support, and ongoing mentoring to help support women into a tech career. Google has a similar initiative with its Women Techmakers programme. A range of networking events all over the world which acts as a platform for women in technology to help further their careers.

Sadly, gender inequality in the technology industry is deeply ingrained and won’t disappear overnight. International Women’s Day is particularly significant as it can serve as an important milestone to track progress on an annual basis. More importantly, it helps to create a gender-balanced world.

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