At the recent “Women in Tech” roundtable, hosted by Cogeco Peer 1 and chaired by Ellie Burns, Editor of CBR, the discussion touched on the subject of whether gender stereotypes have become worse. This sparked some thought-provoking insights and a wealth of potential solutions for overcoming these stereotypes across all stages of education and career.
From my perspective, at the senior hire level, it seems clear that a gender imbalance still exists, despite the sincere efforts of all involved. Great gains have been made, but we are simply not as far along the road as we would like to be. Why not?
One reason is that when an organisation is looking for a talented and experienced hire, quite often they look for a safe solution at pace and will tap the existing talent pool, the known universe so to speak, which is still generally male-dominated, especially in the technology sphere.
Such a short-sighted and reactive approach to talent management is still fairly common, yet it is counter-productive for a number of reasons. Not least because the perpetuation of this established gender imbalance is setting us back on the path to meaningful diversity in the workplace.
Organisations would be better served by taking a longer-term view, in which both men and women already integrated into the company are mentored through strategic career conversations, then supported in their development with the appropriate challenges and coaching. Even in reactive situations, where there is a need for immediately effective hires, a more open minded, insight-driven approach to external recruitment embracing teachable fit would supplement this ethos and will often bring the added value of cultural or industrial diversity to a firm, injecting the team with alternative perspectives and ideas – which can look a lot like innovation!
This is just one approach to smoothing out the road to gender diversity in tech. It requires commitment and work, but the rewards are worth it. Career experts such as ManpowerGroup’s Right Management can help organisations create this career management culture, as well as to evaluate teachable fit for senior external hires.
Ruby Dixon, Head of Local Government at The Alpine Group, addressed the problem from a different perspective; how women and girls relate to technology.
In the Digital Age, “technology” is no longer just about bits, bytes and code, an intimidating perception for many people, regardless of gender. Digital technology now is driven more by experience and engagement, providing intuitive, interconnected and empowering solutions that make life easier for people; and enable more meaningful and productive engagement between a business and its customers.
Ruby proposes that industry needs to think less about technology per se, and more about how it is applied in different sectors such as marketing, fashion, retail and finance. This approach, in which technology’s enablement potential is emphasised, would empower women to become digital leaders, to ‘own’ technology and drive its development from either a user or a business perspective. This concept in no way devalues the importance of STEM education and Ruby was quick to characterise it as incorporating “Art” to emphasise a “STEAM” approach, which I found to be a genuinely compelling proposition.
Both the discussion and the panel were deeply engaging and the primary take away for me is that, while organisations might be tempted to engage in box ticking when it comes to diversity, there are a lot of options and initiatives in already place designed to break down gender boundaries, real or perceived.
To ensure that women are better represented in technology, we need to make sure that these initiatives become mainstream. So, whoever you are, whatever your influence, pick an initiative and back it.
Start somewhere. Start Now.
To watch a video of the roundtable discussion click here
the sjb group is an Executive search firm operating in the IT Services, Consultancy and Technology sectors.