There has been significant progress in the area of gender diversity in the technology industry, but much more work is required, according to a panel speaking on a webinar during Women’s History Month.
The discussion came on the back of Kaspersky’s recent Women in tech report, in partnership with Ada’s List, a global community for women in tech. This study highlighted that a lot of progress is being made in improving representation of women in the tech industry, with over half (56%) of female respondents agreeing that gender equality has improved in their organization over the past two years.
This has been the experience too of Claire Hatcher, head of business development, Kaspersky Fraud Prevention, who explained that when she started in the industry around 15 years ago, “I was often the only woman at the table in meetings and regularly one of very few women in the room in general. However, over the years, I’m happy to see more women are coming up through the ranks and also seeing more women in engineering and R&D roles, and there is a significant portion of female leaders as well.”
Businessman Tim Campbell MBE, a small business advocate, concurred with this, but cautioned that it is important to not get complacent. In particular, he believes there needs to be a greater focus on outlining the tech career options available to school- and college-aged girls. “I am really imploring employers, ERG Group leaders and politicians to be doing much more around advocating the clear pathway from education to employment, because that bridge is really important,” he commented.
Another way of achieving progress is to make the case that greater gender diversity has huge business benefits rather than simply being a matter of equality. Having teams of people from diverse backgrounds and experiences will lead to more effective and innovative outcomes for the organization, according to Hatcher, relating it to her role in fraud prevention at Kaspersky. “Fraudsters typically come from all different backgrounds and they make their money through looking at anomalies and patterns to find vulnerabilities. So diversity is really important in terms of the fight against cybercrime, because you have to change your thought patterns to think like a cyber-criminal in order to find those potential vulnerabilities,” she explained.
In terms of what more employers can do to advance gender diversity in the tech industry, Dr Patricia Gestoso, member of Ada’s list and head of scientific customer support at BIOVIA, said it was important to tailor opportunities within organizations to different groups, including women. She noted, for example, that simply having better maternity conditions isn’t enough. “We need to have different paths for promotion that don’t penalize people for taking time off, mentoring, but most importantly, sponsorship and networking events,” stated Gestoso.
Another interesting aspect of the report was that the shift to home working in the past year appears to be providing benefits such as flexibility for women in the tech industry, with 46% of those surveyed saying this dynamic has improved gender equality in the sector. Nevertheless, this hybrid way of working can have a negative impact on some women, for example leading to burnout due to responsibilities such as childcare and chores. In the view of Campbell, this means there needs to be a far greater emphasis on equality issues in the home environment as well as in the workplace as we shift to a hybrid way of working. “Over this pandemic time, myself and my wife have had to really analyze the allocation of work at home,” he explained, adding that he would like to see men at home look at “what they are actually doing to change the conversation about equality.”