Have organisations really moved forward with gender equality in tech? 

Gender equality, has slowly come into focus for tech companies, but are these organisations taking action to demonstrate the lip service they are paying? While changes in the industry such as increased diversity at the leadership table, recognition of unacceptable and limiting behaviours in the workplace and increased female participation in the Venture Capital market – is the needle starting to really move?  
To get a better understanding of how the tech industry is moving toward gender parity, from the people who live it, we hosted a live panel event in partnership with Silicon Republic titled Technology Matters: How is the inclusion movement faring? Three female leaders from non-profit organisations that are dedicated to gender equality in the technology industry shared their views.
You can watch the event back in full on LinkedIn. 

Have we made any progress regarding gender equality in the tech industry in the past 10-15 years?

If we need to know where we want to be, we first need to get to the heart of where we are. 
What I have seen in terms of progress are these groundswell movements that have lit a lot of fires, but the big burn hasn’t come yet,” says Joanne Dolan, Co-Found of Teen-Turn.
Ten years ago, attitudes to women in the workplace were very different in all industries. In the tech space, people and leaders in the industry still needed to be convinced that gender inequality and sexism were even a problem. However, in 2017 when the #metoo movement shone a light on the inherent sexism in many industries, those in the tech sector also sat up. In the years since, equality has become a topic that many are paying lip service to, although solid actions to remedy the imbalance are yet to be seen.
“I’ve been in [the technology] space since 2015, and we’re way past awareness now. From working in the start up space it’s encouraging to see that the number of female-founded unicorn start ups quadrupled this year, but it’s still only 15 per cent,” says Rhea See, Co-Founder of She Loves Tech.  
Venture capital funding into female start ups was only 2.4 per cent in 2021 and has been hovering around the 2 per cent mark for many years. Initiatives such as the Beyond the Billion, a campaign to drive funding into female-founded businesses, are having an effect but more should be done. Research has shown that female founded start ups consistently outperform male ones1. See believes this will change as more women move into the VC space,having women on both sides of the table leads to better outcomes for all. 

Are you seeing a change in how women perceive working in tech?

We’re seeing a real change for women in the past ten years when it comes to being able to look to role models in their industry and see what successful women look like. But what’s interesting now is that young women are finding role models among their peers, not their superiors,” says Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon, Co-Found Stemettes.

Young women are joining the industry from less traditional education pathways. Previous generations may have taken a very traditional route to the industry via studying computer sciences or software engineering, now there’s a trend in the next generation of studying history or humanities and doing code on the side. This is creating a workforce that is more rounded in their education, and with different ambitions for their working life.

I’m seeing young women coming to industry with the attitude of, ‘I don’t want to make a billion dollars, I want to solve this problem,’ or ‘I don’t want to work all the hours that god has given me, I want to log off sometimes,’ or ‘I don’t want titles and progression, I want to bring people in and along with me’. So, industry needs to be aware that the motivations that bought them into their role, is not going to be the motivations for the younger generation. Make sure you listen to what they want – don’t go the way of Kodak or Blackberry,” warns Dr Imafidon.

Funding still needs to remain a key priority, with programs needed to allow the reskilling of women into the tech workforce. Reskilling needs to remain available and viable to help meet job numbers and allow women to pivot into these roles.

They are a different breed coming through now. They might not be invited but they will arrive, and they are coming for your jobs,” says Dr Imafidon. 

How do organisations attract and retain women in tech?

There needs to be a mindset shift in tech companies when it comes to attraction and retention strategies. Organisations need to take a step back and do an honest assessment concerning things like gender balance and the overall gender gap. And then enact policies that can help address the imbalances to make the workspace more friendly for women.

“The why of women leaving the industry really comes down to culture. They haven’t been invested in, they haven’t been encouraged, they are undermined, looked over for promotions or made to feel that they aren’t working hard enough when they take time for family life. It’s death by a thousand cuts,” says Dr Imafidon.

As more women take a seat at leadership table, the needle is moving towards making workplaces and policies more adaptable to all genders, but the progress is slow which means organisations, leaders and candidates are all missing out as it stands.

Watch the event back in full.