Last month, International Women's Day celebrated the achievements of women, as it has done for more than 100 years. This year the theme - 'Pledge for Parity' - centred around key issues including helping girls achieve their ambitions, creating gender-balanced leadership and ending workplace bias.
It reminded me that gender equality remains a very real issue for all of us in the UK tech industry where, according to e-skills UK, less than 17 percent of the sector is made up of women, with even lower representation at senior leadership levels. In fact, a recent survey showed that most Britons struggled to name a single successful woman involved in technology and, when they did, the person who sprang to mind the most often was Kim Kardashian due to her Hollywood app!
One campaign that I think is very apt for our industry is the United Nations' HeForShe initiative. It's a very inspirational way to remind both men and women that gender equality benefits everyone, and that both sexes have a part to play in bringing it about.
The reason I find it such a good fit is that while men make up the vast majority of the tech industry, it's women who have been taking the lead in trying to attract more female talent to our sector. If we could inspire more men to become involved, the lobby to recruit more women into the sector would become so much more powerful, simply because the call for change would be larger and more diverse.
My female colleagues often say that "you can't be what you can't see," and I think this rings true for male advocacy too: if a few men stand up and say gender equality is important, many others will think "I can do that too" and will be inspired to take action.
Why should men bother? Well, because it's the right thing to do; but also because more women in the industry, particularly in leadership roles, makes great business sense. There are countless studies that prove that a more diverse workforce is a more successful one. For instance, according to the book 'Little Miss Geek' by Belinda Parmar, tech companies with women on their management teams see a 34% higher return on investment. Statistics aside, I've seen the benefits first-hand and I'm sure you have too - teams are stronger, more creative and deliver better results for customers, and employee retention and attraction rates are higher.
What's more, the UK tech industry is in the midst of a skills shortage - one that shows no signs of abating. Last year alone there were 900,000 IT-related job vacancies in the EU. With increasing demands for talent, it's clear that getting more women into tech, and then getting them to stay, is something we're all vested in.
Increasing the number of women in the tech industry really isn't a female-only issue. It's something that affects us all and therefore, I believe, is an issue we all must play a part in addressing. The more voices that are drawing attention to the issue, and the more diverse they are, the better, which takes me right back to why I think the HeForShe campaign is so great!
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