Fill the Gap: Gender Imbalance in the Tech Sector

Gender inequality is a very big problem worldwide. This is especially true in technology, where women are under-represented at all professional levels and there are not enough initiatives towards creating inclusive policies and welcoming diverse talent.

The gender gap is already present at earlier stages as it is reported in skills and career expectations amongst young students. The 2015 OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), published in late 2016, gave a clear view on the situation.

The PISA Survey shows that, at the age of 15, boys are more prone towards a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) career than girls. For instance, in Finland 6.2 % of boys and only 1.4 % of girls plan to become an engineer, scientist or architect. The study reports comparable numbers even among students with similar performances and interest in science.

So, from very early in life, kids are taught that computing is for “guys” and girls and women are not encouraged nor inspired to participate in STEM fields. Studies show that it is not an ability issue.

This inequality impacts career expectations in children and results into a gross under-representation of women in the ICT sector.

Such under-representation has serious negative effects. It is proven that teams with diversity in terms of gender, race, background and experience perform better.

Given the important role of STEM in the digital revolution and the important change being brought on by such revolution, it is essential to combat gender inequality in the sector and ensure women’s involvement in the efforts to leverage this revolution to benefit society.

Last week those topics were discussed at various events in Europe.

At the Slush conference in Helsinki, the world leading start-ups event, Elizabeth Nyamayaro, Head of the UN Women's HeForShe campaign, asked the crowd of innovators for support in accelerating progress for gender equality. The Women of Europe awards in Brussels celebrated the contribution of women in advancing the European project and called for increasing women’s presence and involvement in debates about Europe and its future. And the 2017 Ada awards recognised outstanding girls and women in tech, and the organisations who support them in Europe, Africa and beyond (and was supported by the Developers Alliance, which presented the Digital Impact Organization Award).

Those initiatives are just a few examples of the numerous efforts carried forward to reduce the gender gap in STEM and in the tech sector by giving girls role models, encouraging them to pursue digital careers and acquire the skills needed to be part of the workforce of the future. It shows young girls that tech careers will help make the world a better place.

As new technologies are changing the nature of employment and automation is replacing current jobs, society needs to face to the new challenge and embrace a positive transition towards its future, in a more gender-balanced manner.

Educational systems need to adapt and more initiatives supporting lifelong learning, vocational training, entrepreneurship and leadership education, especially for girls and women, are needed.

At the same time, we must take a more active role in the change, as tech sector, and need to commit more seriously to the fight in order to make our society better, more inclusive and more digital.


MICHELA PALLADINO

Director, European Policy & Government Relations