Despite the industry’s best intentions, technology continues to be a male dominated environment. Today, less than a quarter of IT and tech roles are filled by women with any meaningful progress to address the imbalance being frustratingly slow.
There are a number of excuses for the lack of representation. One being that there are very few female role models within the sector to encourage younger women to study STEM subjects. Academia is now doing much more to highlight the opportunities to female students, helping them to make early choices that prepare them for a role in technology. However, the outdated stereotype that men are naturally better at mathematics and technology can be difficult to shake off, which may be one reason why women continue to be underrepresented in STEM courses.
Certain areas of the industry also often demand long hours and commitment, particularly in more senior positions. Added to this, many women put undue pressure on themselves to outperform their male counterparts to validate their position. This pattern can be counterproductive and result in early burn out or mental health issues. Instead, employers must support their female staff and give them the tools and confidence to feel respected and equal to their colleagues.
But evidence suggests that businesses thrive when they implement a more inclusive policy and actively promote equal representation in the workplace. Women add a different perspective to men, and can possess a number of beneficial traits such as being empathetic and effective readers of people’s emotions. These skills are very much sought after when managing teams, suppliers, and customers. Many women are also used to managing multiple domestic and work responsibilities simultaneously, so they can be exceptionally skilled at multitasking under immense pressure.
At Equinix, we recognise the value that women bring to our workplace and are working hard to address our own gender imbalance. Currently just 22 percent of our staff are women, with that figure falling to 19 percent in operations. We now have an initiative called ‘I Am Remarkable’ helping women, without a technical background, join our industry after a career break. Many candidates can be put off applying because they believe they don’t have the right skillset. This initiative helps them recognise that, although they may not have the technical training, they hold several extremely valuable and transferable skills that make them ideal employees.
Bringing more women into the industry is critical as demand will soon outpace talent acquisition and training. The industry could find itself competing for the same limited pool of staff despite continuing growth year on year. For Equinix’s customers, a shortage of data center operations workers would slow the progress of their digital transformation and the development of digital services that millions rely on to manage nearly every aspect of their lives.
Technology is now the fastest growing sector in the UK in terms of investment, which means a host of new opportunities opening up. There has been a 50 percent rise in overall UK tech job vacancies advertised in 2021, compared to 2020’s figures, according to Government figures. If we fail to encourage more women into the industry, we may find ourselves unable to fill these new positions.
Companies must work to develop new approaches to finding and training women to fuel this future growth. Non-traditional talent pipelines and recruitment programmes will encourage women to apply from more varied backgrounds. On joining the business, they will need training programs and mentoring to grow their skillset and confidence. By encouraging a more diverse profile of workers, we will eventually see a tipping point where the tech industry better reflects society. This is not only good for women, but time will show us that it will be far better for our industry.