By Svenja de Vos, Chief Technology Officer, Leaseweb Global
Last year, diversity became a hot topic due to several unfortunate events, and a spotlight was placed on the industry. This spotlight revealed that many of the tech leaders weren’t succeeding in ensuring diversity in their workforce. Specifically, the world learned that Apple’s senior executives were 70% white men, less than 40% of Facebook’s employees were female, and Google had a diversity issue with both women and ethnic minorities. This revelation saw many tech companies make firm commitments toward improving gender diversity. Women’s History Month provides a perfect platform to amplify efforts to encourage more women and girls to get into the tech industry.
The industry is currently facing a staggering talent gap, demonstrating that it is in desperate need of workers with the right knowledge and skills. This crisis could be solved by prioritizing getting more women into STEM roles.
With recent research from Cybersecurity Ventures showing that tech sectors such as cybersecurity will see 3.5 million positions go unfilled this year, it is important to widen the talent pool by getting more women involved in STEM. While this does fall heavily on education institutions to improve STEM education and training among all genders, tech companies also have a role to play by ensuring that the field is welcoming to women.
It’s key that tech companies start working with organizations targeted at younger generations to dispel any stereotypes of the industry, and many of these stereotypes center around gender.
From an early age, we have all been told that boys have more talent for STEM subjects than girls. How often have you heard that boys are better at math and girls are better at English? Beyond that, boys traditionally play with cars, LEGOS, and robots, while girls are expected to play with dolls. These societally ingrained images of male and female stick with people for their entire life, impacting every industry and the direction that young men and women take when it comes to their careers. Therefore, it is not very surprising that girls ultimately opt-out of STEM subjects.
Young women should be exposed to the basics of coding through their education and taught to explore STEM skills such as programming. Once these skills and interests have been established, they should be encouraged and promoted. Additionally, young women should be taught that women are successful in the STEM realm. Currently, being a female manager in the tech world is unfortunately considered ‘abnormal.’
The data supports this push: Research indicates that having a more diverse workforce has a direct correlation to a business's bottom line. Diversity helps with hiring - a survey by Glassdoor showed that 67% of job seekers said a diverse workforce is important when considering job offers. It helps with innovation - Josh Bersin's research showed that inclusive companies are 1.7 times more likely to be seen as innovation leaders in their market. And, it greatly benefits success and profit - a report by McKinsey & Company on delivering growth through diversity found that companies with the most ethnically diverse executive teams are 33% more likely to outperform their peers on profitability, while another study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group found that companies with more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenue.
The numbers are obvious as to why tech companies should be doing all they can to ensure that their workforce is more diverse and they are creating a welcoming environment for more women. However, women who are interested in STEM roles have a task in this change. Women in STEM, or those who are interested in STEM, need to keep developing themselves and focus on a position that aligns with their skills and interests. It is important to remember that jobs are person-specific, not gender-specific, and now is the time to change perceptions while narrowing the skills gap.
As we look toward the future, we all need to think about what we can do in this next year and beyond for young people, specifically young women, to get them excited about a STEM career. The goal is to prepare ourselves for a better future and we need everyone to make that possible.