Why are there so few women working in tech?
8 March, the International Women’s Day, the perfect opportunity to see how women are doing in the IT industry. Women have always been a minority in tech and less than 7% of the technical jobs in Europe are occupied by women. More and more women work, but why do so few women choose a career in tech? After all, it is a prosperous industry with great job opportunities.
At Right People Group we deliver independent consultants to companies with a temporary need for extra resources. We took a closer look at 366 freelance projects that we delivered consultants to over the past 2 years. While a quarter of the customers were female, the corresponding figure on the consultant side was only 7%.
“It is no surprise that it is a male-dominated industry, but I am still shocked that there are so few women who work as freelance IT consultants,” says Henrik Arent Danish CEO, Right People Group.
“The first thought is, of course, whether we could do more to recruit female consultants, but we always try to look broadly in our searches and would very much like to introduce women to our customers. The thing is that there are very few women in the IT sector and not many of them are available on the freelance market.”
“With a market that is looking for more IT specialists, it is unfortunate that there are not more women in the game as freelance consultants. Everyone would benefit: the women could follow a challenging and flexible career path, and the companies would be able to get more gender-balanced teams.”
So where are the women?
There is a few possible explanations, namely:
1. Gender stereotypes keep women away from tech
Technology and women are not seen as a natural match. With so few technically educated women, it’s not strange that few women are employed in tech. From a young age, the gender stereotypes of boys being better at science and mathematics can keep girls from studying these STEM courses (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Technology does not ‘fit’ women, is a common misperception which is passed on to the next generation – even though often not intentionally – from adults.
“The IT industry has received a very strong gender label. It is associated with the STEM courses and these are seen as the studies for men,” says Jo Krøjer, Professor at Roskilde University
2. Lack of diversity
As mentioned above, fewer women choose STEM courses, which means that employers looking for technical profiles will be faced with a majority of male applicants to recruit from. The culture within many IT companies is dominated by men and changing the culture towards a more diverse and female-friendly work environment is no easy task.
3. Tech is a man’s world and men like to recruit men
According to a survey, recruitment managers tend to attract people who are culturally similar to themselves (i.e. with the same taste, hobbies, experiences). When applied to the technical world, it is common to see how a group of male friends will recruit other men to expand an IT startup.
At Right People Group though, 25 % of our customers are women while the equivalent percentage on the recruited consultant side is only 7.
“No industry or country can reach its full potential until women reach their full potential. This is especially true of science and technology, where women with a surplus of talent still face a deficit of opportunity.”
Why the tech industry needs more women
Getting more women interested in tech is no idealistic matter. It is much needed. In 10 years, IT will be more important than ever, our society, economy, health and safety will depend on it. Gender diversity benefits businesses; companies with women on the team are more likely to have higher valuations. According to researchers at the University of Castilla la Mancha, Spain, gender diverse R&D teams lead to greater creativity and better decisions.
“I find it very unfortunate that there are so few women in the IT market, also because we know that our customers want more women in their projects. It ensures better and more balanced teams.” says Henrik Arent: Danish CEO at Right People Group.
Luckily, today, many successful women are already present in the IT world and can function as role models for the women of tomorrow.
Nevertheless, it remains a challenge to reach a better balance in both education and with regards to tech jobs when looking at the number of men and women who choose to study and work in technology and IT. Through a lot of small and big actions, the system and the culture can and must be changed. This is not only in the interest of the women, it is also almost a prerequisite if we want to accommodate the growing demand for skilled IT specialists.