International Women’s Day (8th March) is here again – a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.
Whilst there has been some fantastic progress made since women were first given the vote 100 years ago, recent headlines have highlighted that there is still plenty of work to be done if we are to truly #pressforprogress when it comes to gender parity.
Conversations on gender pay gaps, equality and diversity are more prevalent than ever before, particularly in the world of business, with the technology sector perhaps the most in need of attention.
Currently, just 15% of people working in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) roles are female, with just 5% holding leadership positions within Technology. This is not only an issue for today’s workforce, but unless action is taken now to encourage young women into STEM careers, it will continue to be an issue for future generations.
Why are so few women taking up careers in tech?
Technology and tech-related careers suffer from a somewhat ‘misunderstood’ reputation; with the common perception being that it’s all about computers, coding and operating machinery.
The truth is however, that many technology-related roles, particularly in HR, also involve ‘softer skills’ such as understanding people and interpreting human behaviours.
According to Prof Dame Wendy Hall, a director of the Web Science Institute at the University of Southampton, the ‘male computer geek’ stereotype dating back to the advent of the home computers in the early 80s, has played a big part in discouraging women to enter the sector.
“Women were turned off computing in the 80s,” she says. “Computers were sold as toys for the boys. Somehow that cultural stigma has stuck in the west in a way that we can’t get rid of and it’s just getting worse.”
Others believe that it is the lack of role models within the tech sector that is contributing most to the small number of women entering the industry. For years, too, boys and girls at primary and secondary schools have suffered the ‘boys are better at science and maths’ stereotype – something that needs to change.
Is it really that important for women to work in technology-related careers?
As a female-led organisation working within the HR technology sector, we are well aware of the fantastic career opportunities available within our profession. Like many of our peers, we have a duty to explain why this sector is not only a rewarding and enjoyable career choice, but how encouraging more women to follow our lead can bring benefits to all industries and job roles.
When it comes to the HR industry itself, technology can provide far-reaching opportunities for women, enabling them to work within a huge range of sectors from professional services, to healthcare, media, retail and more.
And whilst many women may not identify ‘HR tech’ as a career choice (they may be more familiar with traditional HR roles) there is a growing need for HR professionals to move across into the technological world and put their stamp on the design, development and implementation of new systems and products.
PWC stated in their recent ‘Women in technology’ report, that “technology products and services are being developed and delivered based on the perspectives of only one half of the population, and not designed with the needs of everyone in mind”.
This lack of equal input into technology at the development stage affects all industries and individuals in the long run – negatively influencing important workplace factors such as job satisfaction, workload management and employee efficiency.
Flexible working and ‘fitting around family’
HR technology is also a career which offers fantastic flexibility – thanks to the improvement of remote working and cloud-based software, it has never been easier for HR professionals to work from home for example, or to fit their work around family commitments.
With so many HR systems equipped with remote working capabilities, the traditional 9am-5pm working pattern is rendered redundant, and rightly so. Instead HR practitioners are able to enjoy a more family-friendly working arrangement that will not only improve their work-life balance, but provide employers with an efficient, happy and dedicated team to manage their people proactively.
As personal priorities change, a career in HR tech can adapt with you too; so if you need to be at home to pick up children from school, look after a pet, or wish to fit in a workout to ensure you stay happy and healthy, the software is there to enable you to do this.
What can be done to encourage more women into tech?
Concluding the report mentioned above, PWC suggested that “technology organisations could set themselves gender targets and a programme of initiatives to support women… This could include reverse mentoring, return to work schemes to get women into technology roles following career breaks and sponsorship programmes for high performing females”.
This is a sentiment that we whole-heartedly agree with.
Yet for us, it starts much earlier than industry. There is a lot more to be done when it comes to challenging stereotypes; starting from nursery schools through to primary and secondary school. We also need to look at how tech careers are being described and ensure that young women are given accurate advice and access to strong female role models who are making a difference in the sector.
Next week, we will share some of our thoughts on how best to encourage girls into STEM careers on our blog.
There are so many opportunities available for women of all ages, and at all stages of their careers and at Silver Cloud HR, we are always happy to speak to people who are as passionate as we are about HR technology.
If you would like to find out more about how you can get involved in HR technology, then please feel free to get in touch – we are happy for you to speak with a member of our team about our experiences.