According to recent ONS labour market report, there is a huge gender imbalance in IT and technology. Only 18% are female compared to 50% in other industries. Why is there such a gender imbalance in our industry and is this affecting our competitive advantage?
From a purely marketing point of view, having balanced and diverse teams, gives us a wide range of skills, helping us to develop products for a wider audience. The more we can understand the needs of our audience, the better our products will be, and the more we should sell. When developing new technologies and unique solutions, we need to ensure that we are connecting with all of our audience. McKinsey found that organisations with ethnic, social and gender diversity were 33% more likely to outperform their industry average. By hiring similar people, with similar skill sets, we will no doubt miss opportunities.
Speaking to business owners in the channel, there are a mixture of opinions that range from, ‘it’s not much of an issue’ to ‘I want to hire the best person for the job, but don’t see a diverse range of candidates to choose from.’ The issue seems to be that women and other minorities are not applying for vacancies or rising through the ranks quickly enough. So, what’s the problem?
Fewer females are taking STEM subjects than males from the age of 14 onwards. As parents we can try to keep career paths open and encourage STEM subjects. As individuals we can become role models to demonstrate what is possible. As businesses we can offer work experience placements, apprenticeship schemes and graduate placements. We can run mentoring schemes and personal development support. We can look at our recruitment communications and processes to make sure we are not putting off potential candidates with unconscious bias. We can look at career progression and development internally. We can look at making hours flexible and encourage working from home. We can share maternity leave and think outside the box to be more inclusive to all groups, using technology to help us.
Research conducted by CW Jobs estimates that it could take up to 14 years in IT before we start to see real diversity. We don’t want to wait that long for our competitive advantage. As minorities we can work with mentors and peer groups to enhance skill sets and experience to progress to more senior roles. We can encourage support from business owners and senior management. We are lucky to work with such great entrepreneurs in the channel, who are keen to share what they have learnt and how they got where they are today. We should work with them, learn from them and pay this forward.
We can help to build competitive advantage in our own businesses by letting our voices be heard, putting our hands up for projects that can help drive the business forward and allow us to rise up the ranks. We can associate ourselves with companies that share our values and give us the opportunity to achieve our career goals, encourage our companies to be diverse and inclusive and highlight the business benefits.