Women have played a role in computer technology since its inception
Many credit Ava Lovelace as the first computer programmer, in a time before computers even existed, and women from Grace Hopper to the women who worked with Alan Turing at Bletchley Park were key in the development and adoption of modern computing devices. However, the number of women working in tech dropped significantly after the 1980s, and the percentage of tech employees who are female lags far behind other fields, including business, law, and medicine. Still, there are signs of progress, and understanding the statistics pertaining to women in tech is essential for understanding the problems and addressing them.
PwC recently looked at the role of women in tech in the UK. In STEM fields, women accounted for only 15 percent of employees. More distressingly, there are few signs that this number will rise without extra action, as only 15.8 percent of undergraduates in STEM fields are women. Leadership examples can be key toward encouraging more participation among women, yet only five percent of leadership positions in STEM fields are held by women. In PwC’s report “The Female Millennial — The New Era of Talent,” researchers found that young women want to work with employers with a strong history of inclusion, diversity, and equality. Many women see the low number of women in tech and choose to enter other fields.
The PwC reports highlights the problems these disparities create for UK companies. Two-thirds of CEOs in the UK claim to have difficulty hiring people with digital skills, a numbers that significantly exceeds the 43 percent of CEOs who claimed the same in the US and the 24 percent of CEOs in China. Countless studies have shown a shortage of tech workers in the UK and around the world, and this number will only rise. Increasing the number of women entering tech is perhaps the most powerful tool for alleviating this burden.
Of course, these problems aren’t confined to the UK. Statistica recently looked at the tech pay gap in various United States cities. Perhaps the most surprising result was how the small the tech pay gap is in cities not commonly associated with the country’s coastal liberalism. In New Orleans and Indianapolis, the tech pay gap stood at only one percent. In fact, in Kansas City, Missouri, women made 102 percent of the salary of their male counterparts. Among the cities surveyed, Silicon Valley and its adjoining areas fared worst, with pay gaps in San Jose standing at 17 percent, San Francisco at 18 percent, and Fremont at 22 percent. Significantly higher salaries in and around Silicon Valley, however, mean that women might make more in the area in spite of higher housing costs.
Around the globe, rates of female participation in tech vary significantly, as does the gender pay gap. These aren’t the only relevant statistics; how likely, for example, are women to successfully climb the tech job ladder? How does female participation in tech compare to the number of women in the job market as a whole? Honeypot took a holistic approach to crunching these numbers to compare 41 countries in the OECD and the EU.
Switzerland came out on top, and European countries generally considered to have better gender equality scored well, with Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Iceland, and Norway rounding out the top six. The eastern portion of Europe scored some strong results as well, with Slovenia and Finland coming in seventh and eighth. Among larger countries, Germany scored best, coming in at ninth overall, and South Korea rounded out the top 10, representing the first nation outside of Europe in the list. The UK came in 27th place, following the Czech Republic, and the United States placed 34th, following Latvia.
There are reasons for optimism among the sea of distressing statistics. CompTIA, for example, has statistics that show interest in tech among teens has risen by 10 percent since 2012, with girls leading the way at 17 percent. Furthermore, companies, realizing that women will be needed to fill jobs in demand, are taking steps to encourage women to enter the field. CompTIA’s Advanced Women in Tech community provides resources for women looking to enter tech fields, and these resources help connect women with organizations that can help. It’s not always easy to know where to look when considering a tech career, and CompTIA and other organizations are taking a proactive approach to providing guidance.
There’s no easy solution to the tech gender gap, and even determining the causes of the gap is difficult. However, it’s a problem the industry needs to solve, as even if women enter tech in large numbers, there are still projected to be millions of unfilled jobs going forward. Still, there are reasons for optimism, and there’s hope that women will achieve critical mass in the field and provide a more welcoming environment to future generations.
About the author
Ludmila Morozova-Buss is Vice President of Public Relations and Media Communications at Global Institute for IT Management (GIIM) & Executive Partner at Brooks Consulting International (BCI) – a boutique global marketing, branding, and government relations firm specializing in Cybersecurity and Emerging Technologies.
At the Global Institute for IT Management (GIIM) we help IT and non-IT leaders overcome uncertainties, be well prepared to meet the challenges of the digital transformation, and lead organizations to success in transition.