By Robin Stimac, Chief Product Officer (CPO) of next gen document generation platform Templafy,
With International Women’s Day having just passed, this is a great time to reflect on how we are tracking on equality and inclusivity – as a society as a whole, but also within the tech industry.
Only 25% of tech workers in the UK are women – and that percentage is even lower for women of colour. The World Economic Forum’s 2021 Global Gender Gap Report predicts that it will take 135.6 years to close the gender gap globally, with the COVID-19 pandemic having added an extra 36 years. But there are actions companies can take now to make real and meaningful change today.
Diversity in numbers
Diversity in tech is critical since it directly improves the likelihood that the solutions created here will take the needs of all types of users into consideration. Also important, a report from McKinsey found that diverse companies perform significantly better than those with little gender and ethnic diversity in their workforce. But there is still much progress to make, especially following the events of the past two years.
The pandemic has disproportionately impacted women according to a 2021 report from TrustRadius – 57% of women in tech roles experienced more burnout than normal in 2021, compared to 36% of men. This is most likely due to the fact that 44% of women reported having to take on extra responsibilities at work, and 33% had to juggle more childcare responsibilities compared to only 19% of men.
Tackling the gender gap through mentorship
It is clear that this is a salient issue and more effort needs to be put into diversifying tech and making the field more conducive for women. To ensure we continue to bridge the divide, it is important for female leaders in technology to accept their role in leading the change. It can be as simple as fostering mentor relationships across their own networks, whether it be within their own organisation or outside of it. Having relatable, female role models opens up endless possibilities for women as they build their career and is one of the top strategies for ultimately bridging the gap in leadership.
A study by Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations found that mentorship programs are one of the most effective methods for promoting workplace diversity. Mentoring can also help improve promotion and retention rates for women and minorities, boosting the representation of women in managerial positions as much as 24%. Moreover, it is a great way to forge female solidarity at work: a study by DDI found that 80% of women who mentor do it because they want to support other women. Additionally, 74% noted that they mentor because they have benefitted from their own mentorship experiences.
However, despite their potential, mentorship programs have not been embraced enough: the DDI study found that 63% of women have not had a formal mentor, despite 67% of them rating it as highly important to advance in their careers. Prominent women in tech that have taken up mentor roles include Tabitha Goldstaub, co-founder of CogX and chair of the UK government’s AI Council, and Amali de Alwis, ex-CEO of Code: Girls First and current Managing Director of Microsoft for Startups UK. They all agree on the importance of mentoring to boost confidence and inspire others.
Throughout my career, I’ve benefited from watching and working with many strong and successful women leaders. They not only helped to bolster my technical and leadership skills but also challenged me to find my courage and to contribute to creating a sense of belonging for others in whatever role I found myself. They showed me the impact each of us can have in setting a positive path for future generations – and it’s a role I would encourage us each to embrace as we move towards a more equitable world.
Towards a more diverse future
Achieving gender equality in tech requires the active involvement of women in leadership positions, along with support by male allies. Having visible female role models is also incredibly important to inspire young girls and spark their interest in STEM subjects. It’s why we need to put ourselves out there as thought leaders in the media, at events and on social media.
In a similar vein, mentorship has proven to be a highly successful method to diversify workplaces and should be more broadly implemented. Embracing diversity positively impacts performance and can help create better products that benefit all sectors of the population. Raising the profile of women in leadership positions and making sure we support other women through efforts like mentorships can help narrow the gender gap and shape a more diverse tech industry that better represents and better serves everyone.
Robin Stimac is the Chief Product Officer (CPO) of next gen document generation platform Templafy, with over 20 years experience in B2B product management, portfolio and market strategy, and solution sales consulting. She is driven by the desire to creatively solve problems with technology and to deliver innovative software solutions that transform workplace experiences and improve business outcomes.