Small Steps to Turn the Tide on Female Under-Representation in Tech

By Women Love Tech
on 8 July 2024

It’s no secret that the tech space needs more diversity. With female under-representation in tech still a cause for concern. But, what exactly can companies do about it? Emma Davies, HR and wellbeing manager at Zengenti, creators of Contensis, headless content management system, shares her thoughts.

You only have to look at our recent research to see how under-represented women in technology are. As part of National Careers Week and International Women’s Day in March, we took a snapshot of the most popular names for software developers in the UK and the US. And, the results were worrying, to say the least.

In the UK, just two female names appear in the top 50 list. And, even then, they are towards the bottom. Sarah is in 43rd place, while Laura is in 47th. The US fared even worse for gender diversity, with no female names making the top 50.

Separate figures from Women in Tech suggest that the proportion of women has increased from 19 per cent in 2019 to just over a quarter (26 per cent) in 2023. However, the drop seen in the first two quarters of last year indicates that progress continues to be precarious.

A mountain to climb

We’ve not shied away from the fact that we’re not where we want to be right now. Although we’ve doubled the number of women in our team since the pandemic, they account for just 14 per cent of our entire workforce.

As uncomfortable as this might be, acknowledging the scale of the challenge is the first step in making positive changes. It is fitting that the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day was Inspire Inclusion. Something that we will be keeping front and centre of our minds as we try to play our part in turning the tide on female underrepresentation.

As employers, we receive very few and sometimes no applications from women for our tech roles. This is not a surprise given that the proportion of female computer science graduates stands at around 24 per cent, so the talent pool is already much smaller.

The reasons why women don’t choose tech roles in the first place are complex and wide-ranging. Women might, understandably, worry about the ‘tech bro culture’ image often associated with the industry, be put off by the lack of visible role models or be worried about striking the right work-life balance.

Taking action and inspiring change

At Zengenti, we have a remote work policy. Meaning that more female developers – from across the UK – can apply for a job, without worrying about being too far away from home should they have childcare responsibilities. Remote working has also given us the opportunity to widen our talent pool in the hopes of attracting more females into the industry.

Perceptions that tech and STEM subjects are for boys still persist. And, both teachers and parents might steer girls, even subconsciously, towards arts and humanities subjects instead. This is evidenced by a PwC report that found that around a third of men have had a career in tech suggested to them. Compared to just 16 per cent of women.

But education is only part of the story. We cannot ignore the reasons why women also leave the industry. These include imposter syndrome, lack of role models/mentors, and fewer opportunities for progression.

Tech companies like ours can control these through policies and culture. We know that progress doesn’t happen overnight, but the steps employers take can collectively make a difference.

Flexible and remote working, medical cover and wellbeing initiatives can all provide practical support. Removing needless barriers and ensuring that nobody has to give up a career they love. These policies also send a clear signal that a workplace is supportive of everyone.

Learning and development to achieve greater equality

Even if someone has not graduated in a tech subject, there are opportunities for them to undertake training and move into tech roles they didn’t previously know were available to them. And, if their role isn’t technical, learning to code can still be a boost. An obvious example is a UX designer. Here, coding isn’t essential but knowing HTML and CSS can help projects to run more smoothly and support career progression.

We also believe that work experience placements can open young people’s eyes to tech opportunities. Especially if their school’s IT resources are limited.

So, in addition to placements for university students, we’ve offered one or two-week placements for high school students. Inviting them to come up with an idea for an app and teaching them some of the fundamentals of coding.

Sixth-form and further education students have also had the chance to work on real project teams as part of a longer-term placement. And, we were delighted to be able to offer one young woman a permanent role with us following a successful stint.

The bigger picture

It’s been said many times that a diverse workforce is a stronger workforce. When women are underrepresented in tech, or any industry, they not only miss out on satisfying and financially-rewarding career paths but companies themselves will suffer too. Not to mention the UK’s digital, and wider, economy.

Zengenti’s own software, Contensis, is widely used by the public and education sectors. So, it has to meet the needs of a broad range of users. Along with automated and real-world testing, we rely on people with inquisitive minds, lived experiences and diverse perspectives to overcome unintentional biases and gaps in user experiences. We can’t achieve this if we don’t leverage the talents and insights of half the UK’s population.

To delve into the insights collected from the research campaign, visit:

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