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Tech gender imbalance to last another 12.5 years

Women are put off entering the sector by a lack of opportunities and the prevalence of male-dominated cultures

Gender balance in the UK tech sector will not be reached for another 12.5 years industry professionals predict.

The research by CWJobs found that male tech workers are even less optimistic, believing it will be another 14 years until there are an equal number of men and women working in the industry.

The survey, completed by 300 key decision-makers and senior professionals across the UK’s IT and tech sectors, found that most companies are struggling to level the playing field, with almost nine in 10 (87%) respondents agreeing that a gender imbalance still exists. This imbalance is across both pay of female tech workers and overall female representation.

Respondents were found to be generally positive about the importance of diversity in business. Seventy per cent of industry professionals agreed that gender balance is very important or crucial within technology roles. Reasons for this included greater innovation (54%), differing viewpoints (45%) and to ensure new technologies are geared towards everyone (42%).

The most common reasons dissuading women from pursuing a tech career were found to be perceived male-dominated cultures (48%), and lack of opportunities for promotion or senior roles (40%). Other deterrents included negative perceptions of the roles and/or work (33%), as well as the recruitment process and interview questions favouring male candidates (31%).

Equal pay and discrimination were among other concerns cited. More than half (55%) of women said that they are on the wrong side of a gender pay gap, and this imbalance is not expected to be redressed for another 7.5 years.

However, it appears businesses are making an effort to address the gender imbalance. Almost three-quarters (72%) of respondents believed that their company has taken steps to recruit more women into tech roles. Some of the initiatives firms are adopting include changing the way they write job ads to avoid unconscious bias (29%), introducing gender balance quotas or targets (24%) and emphasising women in senior roles (23%).

Sheridan Ash, technology and investments director at PwC and founder of the Tech She Can charter (launched by PwC in February 2018), said that educators and industry professionals must work together to improve gender diversity. "It's only by taking combined action across the industry that we can hope to tackle the root cause of the gender imbalance in the technology sector. We need to work hard to create a sustainable pipeline of diverse tech talent, and it all starts by inspiring girls to consider tech roles while they are in school,” she said.

Ash added that it’s difficult to attract women to the industry without other women to act as role models: “It's often said that 'you can't be what you can't see' so we need to promote the brilliant women already working in a wide range of different roles across the sector; from creatives and designers to coders and data scientists. Technology is open to all, and that's an important message we need to get across."