Supporting women in technology: The challenges and responses

Kevin Dainty, client relationship manager for Reed’s technology division, discusses how technology companies can support women in a currently male-dominated industry and how this will change for future generations

Technology has become one of the UK’s fastest-growing sectors, as demand for digital initiatives has heightened due to the pandemic.

As businesses hunt for the most talented professionals in a candidate-led market, they are increasingly offering flexibility, such as remote or hybrid working, and have been forced to increase salaries in order to stand out amongst competitors.

With a more flexible approach to working on the cards, women now have even more opportunities than ever before to progress in their technology careers, just like their male counterparts. The gender disparity in the sector – which is often widened due to lack of flexibility, especially for working mothers – at long last, could be consigned to history.

But is this still the case? Lessening the gender gap in the technology sector is so much more than offering remote work, especially for the next generation of technology experts. How can technology companies can support women in a currently male-dominated industry?

The current perceptions of women in technology

In a survey conducted by Reed of more than 500 UK parents of girls aged between five and 18 years old, half (51%) said that their daughters express a keen interest in technology both at home and in education, with three quarters (76%) reportedly feeling that technology is a good career for their daughters. Only 4% stated that they felt it was too male dominated.

This is indeed reassuring that perceptions of women in technology are changing, with the next generation having more support and guidance from their parents than previous generations may have done. To compare with the above, of those already taking part in the Reed Women in Technology Mentoring Programme (i.e. women already working in the technology sector), nearly three quarters were over 18 years of age before considering a career in the sector, with 80% never thinking they’d end up working in technology.

On top of this, more than 72% say they had no technology role models growing up, while 65% of parents surveyed feel that more role models representative of their children would be a huge encouragement for their daughters to focus on a career in technology.

There is change occurring, yet some barriers still yet to overcome. Where the next generation of women aspiring to work in technology might get more support from those around them than previous generations, there still needs to be proactive effort made to ensure that the ones that do wish to pursue a career in the technology industry have all the guidance they need.

In light of this, let’s look at the barriers women often face and how strong support and mentoring can help.

Imposter syndrome

The fact women in the industry don’t see many other females of the same age or background climbing the career ladder is a big barrier to entry.

This in part can have an impact on how they feel in their working environment, contributing to imposter syndrome. This is where an individual may doubt their skills, talents, or accomplishments, and believe they aren’t “cut out” to do a job they actually are more than capable of doing. Having a mentoring programme that your employees can be involved in will go some way to preventing this from happening.

What women need is encouragement, and our free mentoring programme, or any mentoring programme for that matter, should provide the support and guidance to excel and succeed. The Reed Women in Technology Mentoring Programme, for example, connects women at any stage of their career with an external mentor – male or female – who can offer them tailored advice and direction, to help them realise their potential and achieve both personal and professional goals.

Championing diversity

Technology companies should be working towards creating a culture and environment where diversity is championed, and inclusion is the norm.

An effective mentoring programme can do this. It will increase the number of women taking up careers in technology, making it aspirational to have a career in the sector.

Mentees and mentors should be matched based on several factors including location, background, key strengths, skills sought, challenges that are looking to be overcome, and desired outcomes, to enable each person involved to be given the bespoke advice they need. Taking part in a programme, mentees have the benefit of building confidence, tackling isolation and networking, while mentors can benefit from the opportunity to develop management and teaching skills and networking potential.

Maintaining drive and focus

Often, when in a professional space where there is no one to turn to, or where it feels like things, including teammates, are working against you, it can be easy to lose the passion once felt for the role.

Workshops, for example, can be designed to support female members who may have lost their direction or focus. Sharing recognised coaching tools and techniques, mentoring coaches enable the group to guide each other to overcome their challenges and build a positive mindset to achieve their desired outcomes.

This is an opportunity to not only learn some coaching techniques, but also to build new friendships and alliances with the members of the group. Not only do they benefit from the acquired skills, but so will any team or organisation they may end up working with or for. There’s also added benefits for businesses including better employee engagement, the opportunity to bridge skills gaps, and the chance to cultivate a culture of personal and professional growth.

Keeping the conversation open will allow diversity to no longer be the awkward elephant in the room and showcase opportunities to allow for more equality across the board.

You might also like: Q&A: Celebrating International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2022 with UCLB

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