This year the theme of International Women’s Day is “Choose to Challenge”. It’s a call to action for all of us working in a tech sector where women are significantly underrepresented, to challenge the status quo and help to develop a more inclusive industry.
The European Commission’s 2020 Women in Digital Scoreboard found that Women across Europe are less likely to have specialist digital skills and work in the tech field when compared to men. According to its research, only 18% of ICT specialists are women and the gender gap is present in all 12 indicators measured in the report. The industry is also not doing enough to attract and promote women to senior management roles, in order to close the gap at the top and achieve gender parity. An S&P Global Report found that women now occupy less than one-fifth of the places on the board of directors at tech companies, and the share is even lower for female executives.
Challenging the status quo is certainly a key part of Codemill’s approach, both through the solutions our team develops and within our company culture. From the outset, our co-founder and CTO Johanna Björklund PhD, has set the tone for Codemill’s commitment to gender diversity. Currently 25% of our team are female and we are continually looking to expand on this through progressive recruitment policies, links to education and fostering a positive working environment.
There are ongoing discussions within the tech industry as a whole on how best to balance out teams. However, it seems that an equality strategy itself also requires some balance. Let’s look at the 3 key areas which should be an equal focus for organisations to help facilitate gender diversity in tech.
The tech industry certainly needs to do more to drive awareness of the range of career opportunities available, particularly with young women. The PWC UK Women in Technology study undertaken in 2017, found that only 3% of female students identified a career in technology as their first choice.
There is a gap between the perception of core subjects which provide the necessary background for an engineering degree, and the creative output of the digital experience. Codemill partners with organisations such as Pepp, a mentoring program at high school level in Sweden, which inspires young women to explore technical studies. Each student is assigned a mentor who studies engineering at university, offering valuable insights into the realities of a tech-focused career.
While creating links to educational institutions in order to encourage female students is key, it’s important to note that we are not just waiting for the next generation of potential team members to graduate. Our recruitment policy means that we reach out to women with transferable skill sets from other industries, leveraging their talent within the tech sector.
A negative or exclusionary culture at events and within tech organisations can lead to women feel alienated by the industry. According to a 2020 report from Accenture and Girls Who Code, half of all young women will leave their tech job by age 35. This is clearly a huge waste of potential and a loss of mid-level experience, which in turn leads to fewer women in senior positions. The Accenture and Girls Who Code report also found that in less-inclusive workplaces, the likelihood that a woman will advance to become a manager is just 28%, compared with 40% for men. That gender difference disappears in more-inclusive workplaces.
At Codemill we foster an inclusive working environment and take time to nurture and develop the talent of our “Codemillists”. Gender diversity is key to our success and we are working towards an even representation of female colleagues across multiple departments. We know that everyone in our team needs to be valued and given autonomy so Codemill also embraces flexibility and a healthy work / life balance.
There are of course some incredible women already working within the industry and breaking new ground. Therefore, it’s important to celebrate their successes, while emphasising the work which still needs to be undertaken to achieve gender parity in the tech sector. Female visibility at industry events and within academia is crucial for improving diversity and inspiring others.
While we value collaboration at Codemill, there is also a sense of intrapreneurship within the company and individuals are given the freedom to experiment with innovative ideas. We work to raise our team member’s profile as well as sharing good news and important projects. Codemill has strong links to academia through both our resident PhD students and our co-founder Johanna Björklund, who has recently received funding to investigate the implications of contextual communication for citizens and society. This will culminate in a theory of AI-driven contextual communication, which makes it possible to use the new technology in an efficient and responsible way.
Over the coming months we will be looking at more ways to help our female team members excel. We know there is much more to do and Codemill is excited to be part of this global industry shift towards equality.