Women in tech is an interesting subject for many reasons. We hear endlessly how the tech industry lacks women, how the gender pay gap is still an issue and how we still lack women in high managerial positions. But we still don’t know why this is. Are women purposely not choosing the tech industry or does the issue run deeper than that? I had some thoughts on this, as a woman in tech, and decided to take a deep dive into my experiences and how things have changed since I started my tech career ten years ago.
Life at StatusCake
I started at StatusCake just six weeks ago and I’m currently the only female on the team. Our CEO, James, mentioned this during the interview and it didn’t bother me at all. I think if we’re going to get more women into tech, we need to take the plunge when the opportunity arises. But that’s where I think the main issue is – does the opportunity always arise?
Stereotypes of female roles
I recently worked for a popular travel company in central London and when I told my old colleagues that I had started at a tech company, their response was “but you’d be better working in beauty or fashion”. This was strange to me as I’m not particularly into either of those things and tend to wear whatever I think works as opposed to focusing on the latest Vogue opinions. But the reason was obvious – because I’m a woman.
When I started thinking about this, I had a discussion with some of the women I’ve worked with in the past. Some at a previous tech company I worked at in my early 20’s, a CRM integration, and some for another tour company in Central London. What I realised during these conversations was that the issue of trying to get women into tech stems right back to our early years in education. We are cornered into subjects from a very early age that are deemed the right fit for “females” or “males”. I remember being told to pursue English and Drama without any thought to what I actually wanted to do. It’s important to note that the STEMettes organisation is actively trying to change this by supporting young women in their early career choices in science, technology, engineering and maths.
Is education the reason for the lack of women in tech?
Not only that but we are only taught about the historical male figures that have invented some of the most influential things in the world and those that have won wars. I never learned about Marie Curie’s scientific breakthroughs or Joan Clarke cracking the enigma code with Alan Turing. Even philosophers were dictated with male dominance, Aristotle, Freud and Descartes without a second thought for Simone de Beauvoir, one of the most prominent philosophers in history.
This spurred me to call a local secondary school to get some answers. I had a great chat about the school as a whole but what I really wanted to know was whether things had changed since my school days back in the early 2000’s. The Deputy Head told me that 85% of the tech and science-based subjects were taken up by male students. I asked if they were doing anything to try to inspire more girls to go into these subjects and she admitted that they weren’t, for as long as the classes were full, it didn’t really matter if they were male or female. More interestingly, when I asked if they’d try an after-school coding initiative, she told me that the extra-curricular activities that had been recently introduced included cooking and sewing to try to get girls more involved after school. I felt like I’d gone in a time machine back to 1925.
What about girls in tech?
I believe there are also social and cultural factors that affect women’s desire to go into the tech industry too. Growing up in the 90’s, men were the ones to implement the new computers and set up the internet on AOL dial-up. I was side-lined because I’d be better at colouring in or learning how to bake a cake (both of which turned out to be untrue, actually). It’s interesting now as an adult to know that a woman, Ava Lovelace, helped Charles Babbage to create the first computer.
I think there’s more to the issue than the simple terms I’ve laid out. For example, I’m not a “techie” person but I’m more than capable of learning what I need to about a tech product when I start a job. I can use my skills in content to help market and sell a product without having to develop it. Can I code? Somewhat. Do I want to? No. But there’s much more scope for tech jobs than simply being a developer. Sales, marketing and content all have roles ready and waiting for women in tech companies too.
What is StatusCake doing to get more women into tech?
Here at StatusCake, we value diversity and are always actively seeking more women to join the company because we believe that they bring a new perspective. But it has proven difficult to get any female applicants. We are currently hiring for a developer but only had 1 female out of 45 applicants apply. We asked our recruiter to try to source more female developers but even with her 15 years’ experience, has found it extremely difficult.
We as a company need to do all we can to remove any of the boundaries that put women off – so not just how we speak as a company in our communications and job descriptions (looking carefully at our tone of voice and words we use) and the benefits we put in place (things like decent maternity pay and flexible working) – but equally try to understand why women aren’t coming through. Is it lack of opportunity? Being put off by a male-dominated team? Financial constraints? Only when we have these answers can we work to remove the barriers.
This has led to our decision to investigate the women in tech issue further and see how we can make a real difference including how to become better leaders. We want to fund organisations that help more women and girls get into tech so the future of tech can be more diverse, more collaborative, and ultimately, more powerful.