How Far Are We From Solving the Tech Gender Diversity Crisis?

Women in Technology

Today, weathering the storm of the Coronavirus pandemic will naturally take first priority across the tech sector, and indeed all businesses across the economy. However, I urge industry leaders not to forget the underlying challenges that are continuing to stifle progress.

Despite some headway being made, the technology sector is still plagued by a lack of diversity. Almost two-thirds of women currently working in tech hold the belief that the image of the technology industry being male-dominated acts as a deterrent for women. That’s according to a recent poll by Studio Graphene, which also found that half (49%) of the female respondents had experienced some form of discrimination in the workplace.

These figures highlight the scale of the problem – but where do we go from here? At Studio Graphene, we are proud to promote equality of opportunities, and I hope that the insights from some of our team can help other business leaders understand the issues that they must work to address, and how they can go about doing so.

Are there specific obstacles that women face?

It is impossible to offer effective solutions if we do not first identify the causes of inequality. One underlying obstacle that we must acknowledge is that women are often perceived to be more suited to domestic and care-giving functions, rather than being recognised for their professional aptitude.

Offering some insight from her experience as a woman in tech, Shipra, one of our lead engineers in Delhi, argues that “some people have the mindset that women are just here for supporting their family, while the main breadwinner is the man of the family.” Because of this, “there are situations where [women] need to work harder to prove [themselves].”

Business leaders must take it upon themselves to break down these damaging stereotypes; while it is necessary to recognise the different qualities that women and men may bring to the table, it is important to ensure that they are not pitted against each other. Sakshi, one of our mobile iOS developers, adds that businesses are still guilty of being ignorant of female contributions in the workplace; to that end, she also notes the continued absence of equal remuneration – two core obstacles which, in her view, are hindering female progression in the sector.

Recognising all contributions

There are certain behaviours and ways of working that differ between men and women; and rewarding all contributions on their own merits is the only way to truly level the playing field.

More stereo-typically ‘feminine’ qualities are often responsible for keeping up team morale and fostering better collaboration. Indeed, Sakshi notes the ‘patience’ with which women typically carry out their responsibilities, while Shipra – one of our lead engineers – observes that women are more likely to pay attention to their teammates’ emotional needs; for instance, by asking how people are doing before delving into delivering tasks and objectives. The way women carry out such interactions often goes unnoticed, but it plays a large hand in the overall success of a business.

As an industry, we must work to recognise contributions that cannot be measured and utilise these qualities to foster a conducive working environment. 

Why we should look beyond metrics

In a similar vein, we should also be wary of relying on solutions that are measured in numbers. By this I am primarily referring to popular measures like 50-50 gender splits, which often do more harm than good by encouraging the idea that women should be promoted for the sake of fulfilling mandatory representation quotas, rather than on the basis of their own merits.

Two in five (43%) think that positive discrimination like this would negatively impact on business growth. With little support for such measures, businesses should be looking inwards to create solutions that would not only support diversity – but which would ultimately add value in the long run.

Conducting regular reviews is a powerful way to get feedback from your own employees and learn first-hand what obstacles they have faced in their careers. It is also a chance for them to put forward solutions that will help them progress in your organisation.

Perhaps this is the introduction of flexible working schemes. According to Studio Graphene’s aforementioned survey, 70% of women in tech want to see the introduction of practices such as flexible and remote working that are more supportive of people with children. After all, the responsibility of juggling family and professional life is a factor that is often overlooked, despite playing an important role in a women’s career.

Unfortunately, as Akansha notes, women often hide feelings of stress, anxiety and depression which arise as a result of balancing these different aspects. To aid in this, she suggests that businesses run dedicated programmes to offer women the support that they need to effectively manage their often-conflicting responsibilities. And at a time when the majority of the workforce is working from home, this is more important than ever.

The majority (58%) of professionals in the tech industry – both men and women – believe that meaningful change should be driven by the tech industry rather than the government. I look to my fellow business leaders to learn from past mistakes, make changes which bring out the best in their employees, and ultimately aim towards finally closing the gap on gender inequality.

by Ritam Gandhi, CEO and Founder, Studio Graphene

Ritam worked as a consultant for a decade for the likes of Accenture and Bank of America Merrill Lynch before, in 2014, going on to found Studio Graphene – a firm that specialises in developing amazing blank canvas tech products. Working with many startups alongside innovation teams in more established companies, the London-based agency plans, designs and builds astounding tech products for its clients. What’s more, Ritam and the team also use their experience and expertise to help leaders grow their business from ideation, to launch and beyond.

Kathryn Hall