Let’s park that question for a moment and instead focus on another.
Here’s a list of names. How many do you recognise?
Larry Page & Sergey Brin
All of them, right?
A few of you may have struggled with the last two. Sundar Pichai is the CEO of Google and Evan Spiegel is the CEO of Snapchat. The rest are household names.
Now look at this list of names. How many do you recognise?
Be honest. One? Two?
Susan Wojcicki is the CEO of YouTube.
Ginny Rometty is the CEO of IBM.
Sheryl Sandberg is the COO of Facebook.
Meg Whitman was the CEO of eBay and is touted as the first female President of the United States.
Angela Ahrendts is the SVP of Retail at Apple.
Marissa Mayer was the President & CEO of Yahoo!
Mary Barra is the Chairman and CEO of General Motors.
What’s With The Exam?
We’re not trying to catch you out. That’s not the intention at all.
Later this week we’re going to the CRN Women in Channel Awards which celebrates the achievements of women in the IT industry and recognises ‘the female role models that will inspire the next generation.’
The invitation made us ask the title question of this blog; do we really need another awards ceremony, specifically one for women? The response to the two lists of names above suggests we do. Clearly we are heading in the right direction – it is great that there are already a number of women in very powerful positions within the sector – but there is clearly more to be done both in terms of further addressing gender imbalance and ensuring recognition of achievements such that more women in IT become household names.
It will come as no great surprise but IT has a huge gender diversity issue. According to Information Age, ‘technology is one of the world’s most vibrant and exciting industries but it continues to be blighted by one disheartening problem – only 17% of UK roles are filled by women.’
From womenintech.co.uk, ‘Only 7% of students taking computer science A-level courses are female. Just half of the girls that study IT & Tech subjects at school go into a job in the same field.’
Interestingly, research suggests that companies that properly embrace gender diversity perform better across the board but the world of IT remains dominated by males.
Why Is That?
It’s hard to say. First we need to understand where the root cause of the issue lies. The CRN website asks some important questions: Is it buried deep within the education system? Can more be done at industry level and how can tech companies (and others for that matter) ensure their culture doesn’t unconsciously discourage women from joining or advancing in their careers? Perhaps most pointedly, is it patronising to highlight the issue in the first place?
What we know for certain is that there’s no shortage of outstanding female talent in the world of IT at vendors, distributors and resellers and there are measures in place to attract more women into the IT industry, so says Jane Bird in the Financial Times.
What Sort Of Measures?
Pre-2017, this is how Vodafone would advertise for a Cloud Services Operations Engineer –
‘Seeking outstanding individuals with a passion for mission-critical technology to help on our aggressive journey to improve our premier network and create synergy.’
These male-oriented words prompted the telecom behemoth to re-evaluate how they posted vacancies in order to attract more women. They did a three-month trial in 2017. Now, they scan every job posting to check for and correct gender bias in order to encourage women to apply for the job.
Now, the same job advert would read something like –
‘Seeking extraordinary individuals with a real passion for critical technology to help on our bold journey to improve our top-tier network and help create alignment.’
Vodafone said that small amendments to their job ads such as the one above increased the number of women they recruited by 7% during the trial period.
They’re even removing the phrase ‘competitive salary’ from their job ads.
Catalina Schveninger, Global Head of Resourcing and Employer Brand at Vodafone said that at first ‘We thought this phrase would attract a lot of candidates, but apparently it is putting women off. They don’t care whether they’re making more money than others — they just want to be treated fairly.’
Getting rid of ‘macho jargon’ is one way of attracting more women into the tech world where in the US, under 20% of women make up the workforce according to data compiled by virtual events solutions company Evia. In the UK as we’ve already mentioned, that figure is even lower, around 17%.
Jane Bird writes, ‘Some tech companies are attempting to correct the imbalance with measures such as training staff in unconscious bias awareness, deleting gender from CVs, insisting that shortlists include women, improving referral incentives, introducing retraining programmes for returners, enhancing maternity rights and showcasing female role models on social media. Changing job adverts is a small but effective part of the push to change the industry’s gender balance.’
She continues, ‘Debbie Forster, chief executive of Tech Talent Charter — a UK initiative whose signatories promote the employment of women — agrees male-orientated job descriptions deter women. They often ask for “ninjas” and “techies” [but] not a lot of women I know would describe themselves as a ‘ninja’. They get the impression that they would just be walking into a boys’ club.’
Another interesting take on the lack of women in tech is one of confidence. Research suggests that if a man believes he fulfils half of the required attributes or skill-sets in a job description he’ll go for it. For a woman, that number is more like 90%.
The share of women in tech and leadership roles at the biggest players is interesting in itself:
Moving forward, Vodafone’s goal is to increase the global representation of women in management and leadership roles worldwide to 30% by 2020 — up from 28% in March 2017. The group has also doubled its rewards for staff who introduce female employees.
HP’s board, at 40% female, is the most diverse among US tech companies, while women represent 37% of the company’s global workforce. In the UK more than half of HP’s interns are women — a ratio it says it will maintain. HP has also told its lawyers, advertising and public relations agencies to meet staff diversity requirements or face penalties.
What’s left To Do?
Loads. But there’s lots being done.
We’re lucky. All the vendors we work with have excellent representation across all areas of their business including tech, operations, sales and C-Suite leadership roles, and Hayley Roberts, CEO of Distology and friend of Koncise says it like it is –
‘I am still disappointed that there are such a low number of women applying for job openings that we have, especially within sales. I don’t care what or who you are or what you represent, the important thing is you can get the job done! I am however confident that in time, awards ceremonies will recognise everyone, regardless of diversity!’
As to whether we need separate industry awards for women, it would seem the answer for now is that as much as possible should be done to promote and recognise the achievements of women in the IT sector. However, perhaps the aim should be that diversity and inclusion within the sector is such that there is no longer a need for them in years to come?
Without question the industry is stepping up to meet the challenges of gender diversity in the tech space but there’s plenty more work left to be done.
Watch this space…
Have a good week.