The technology industry constantly pushes boundaries. Unfortunately we have not succeeded in removing the perceived boundaries that stop women from opting to work in technical careers.
Even in some of the world's most progressive technology companies, the gender imbalance is pronounced. Twitter's recent diversity report revealed that only 30% of its employees globally are women. Furthermore, only 10% of its tech roles are filled by women. The situation is similar at Facebook, where women constitute 31% of its overall employees, and only 15% of its tech employees.
This disparity could be down to the fact that, in the past, technology jobs have been viewed by women as being populated by men in basements, working alone, as a human extension of the computer. Even Marissa Meyer, CEO of Yahoo!, once stated that: "when people think about computer science, they imagine people with pocket protectors and thick glasses who code all night". This perception alone is enough to put anyone off computer science for life.
These negative connotations in turn could be what prompts the number of young girls to shy away from choosing to study computer science after leaving school. The Higher Education Statistics Authority found that in recent years, a mere 17% of computer science graduates were women, compared to 83% of men. It's a vicious cycle - negative perceptions prompt less female applicants to study the subject at university, which in turn means less women qualified to do the job, causing a lack of women in the industry overall.
So the big question is, how do we dispel the stereotypes and narrow the gender gap? More needs to be done to give visibility to the amazing projects female engineers have worked on, to show girls it's not just men who are behind the technology they use in their everyday lives. There have been numerous attempts to encourage girls to study science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects at school, including a recent call from President Obama himself to get more girls inspired by the subjects. The most effective initiative in my opinion however, will be the introduction of computing to England's curriculum from this month, where for the first time ever children will be learning computing from as young as five.
Through this initiative, young boys and girls will gain an understanding of computational systems, enabling them to fully understand the power and limits of computing. More importantly however, teaching both boys and girls to code at school from a young age gives them equal exposure to the subject. This levels the playing field when it comes to choosing degrees and careers later on in life. That's why we've launched Rapid Router, a free computing teaching resource to give every child in the country work-related coding skills.
There is no hard and fast solution. Gender equality in technology won't be achieved overnight. An interest in science and technology needs to be cultivated from a young age, and the change to the UK curriculum is a huge step in the right direction.