I have been involved with supporting women in tech since the late 90’s during my time in IBM UK.
It always felt important to me to work in an industry where women’s work was valued equally to that of men, but I could see from things like the gender pay gap in tech, that that wasn’t the case. It still isn’t, sadly, and we are making very slow progress at closing any gap – not just the disparity in pay. In our last BCS diversity report in 2022, we saw a 13% difference between the salaries of male vs female IT Specialists.
The implication is that the work that women do is less valuable than the work that men do.
This must change, and companies will want to be really proactive in making up the differences. There are no excuses now. The gender pay gap is a really obvious way to understand how women might be put off from working in our professions. Along with Hannah Dee (Aberystwyth University) and Clem Herman (Open University) I have been working on some research Microbehaviours. These are the subtle ways in which others tell us that we are not valued. Examples of microbehaviours are put-downs, mansplaining, or being regularly and repeatedly doubted in our area of expertise. Where this happens a lot, it is a telling reflection of the culture within an industry. It is also extremely uncomfortable for the recipient.
We are not ready with our 2023 microbehaviours results yet, but at a review session with academics who teach technology last week something shocking got mentioned. One of the academics related that their female students would actively avoid seeking jobs in certain technical industries. When I asked what those were, the answer, from several academics was: Women tech graduates would avoid seeking out roles in gaming, in finance and in cyber. Shockingly, the culture within those specific groups is believed (amongst women tech graduates) to be sufficiently adverse as to stop them considering careers there.
Our industry needs to fix the culture in order to be truly welcoming to all members of society. It must do so because we know that when teams are diverse they are more productive, more innovative and ultimately more profitable. We cant afford to miss out on those benefits just because we weren’t self aware enough to understand and fix the issues with our culture.