Tech sector must do more to increase gender diversity
RECRUITMENT is something that is never far from the thoughts of technology companies in Northern Ireland – and with our biggest ever contract secured last year, Novosco has been very much in hiring mode during recent months. This has given me cause to reflect closely on a long-standing challenge for the tech sector as a whole.
Today, it remains the case that just 17 per cent of people who work in technology in the UK are female. In our business, I have to confess, the percentage of our workforce that is female isn't a whole lot higher – though its isn't for the want of trying.
But the tech sector needs to do more to increase gender diversity - in its own self-interests as well as because it's the right thing to do - and I'm committed that our company will play its role.
According to research from booking.com, less than half of women currently working in tech in the UK feel that the industry is prioritising gender diversity. While initiatives to close the gender gap and encourage more women into tech are having some success, tech companies and the industry need to demonstrate greater commitment to nurturing female talent if they are to maintain a skilled workforce.
When asked what benefits increased gender diversity can bring to the tech industry, 89 per cent of UK women surveyed said it would help diversify the sector, bringing fresh perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences. They also cited greater flexibility in HR benefits (91 per cent) and an improved work environment that would benefit all employees (90 per cent). Beyond these cultural benefits, women feel their increased representation in the UK tech workforce will contribute to improved company and brand reputation (88 per cent), as well as trust in tech companies in general (84 per cent).
In addition to retaining talent, tech companies need to better support skilled women seeking to re-enter the sector. Currently, six in 10 female re-entrants to tech in the UK – or those who have taken a break and returned to the industry (60 per cent) – view taking a career break as detrimental to their individual progression. Almost two-thirds (65 per cent) believe the industry needs to actively do more to support their re-entry to the field.
Industry professionals predict that gender balance will not be reached for another 12 and a half years, according to research from CWJobs. The research found that men are even less optimistic about the likelihood of this, believing that it could take another 14 years to see an equal ratio of men to women in the industry.
Certainly there has been progress, if too slow. I was encouraged to see that registrations by girls for Novosco Cloud Camp – our summer IT programme for 16-17 year-olds – were equal in number to those by boys. I am also aware of a number of Cloud Camp female graduates who have gone on to enter and do well in IT degree programmes at local universities. We have also been able to recruit an increasing number of outstanding women into our business.
We have a strong, flexible and welcoming culture as a company, but as I reflect on the stark statistics in our industry that continue to prevail regarding female representation in tech, I am undertaking to look at everything we do to ensure that there are no barriers at our company to attracting more female talent. It's the right thing to do, but it also makes clear business sense.
:: Patrick McAliskey is managing director of Novosco, a managed cloud company with offices in Belfast, Dublin and Manchester. It works for many of Northern Ireland's top companies, UK health trusts, housing associations and other organisations