Women in tech: It’s time to start joining the dots #TechTalentCharter

Tech Talent Charter launch event at the Gherkin, London.

The technology sector has a big problem, and it knows it. There are not enough women entering the field and when they do, they can’t seem to keep them.

Why? The answer is simple: it’s complicated.

A new major survey from global Technology recruiter Harvey Nash finds that just one in seven people working in tech are women. These numbers shrink when you look at the proportion of women working in senior IT leadership (CIOs, chief technology officers, or vice presidents of technology) where representation has remained stubbornly at just 9 per cent.

Of course, the tech sector is not unique. As we know from global statistics women are still under-represented at the top echelons of business and governments across all sectors. In the US only 10.7 per cent of board seats of Fortune 500 are held by women and in the UK there are more men named ‘John’ running FTSE 100 companies than there are female leaders.

The difference for tech is that jobs are being created at a faster rate than those entering the industry, regardless of gender, so in a time of huge skills gaps there can be no more idleness in unlocking the potential of half the population.

The survey suggests that the biggest problem is with education, with over 60 per cent of respondents believing that more needs to be done to encourage young girls into tech. But of course we know that is just part of the issue.

Nearly half (47 per cent) felt that employers need to be more flexible and supportive of balance with work and other life commitments. Others pointed to more efforts from senior leadership and companies encouraging inclusive cultures that allow women to progress.

As said previously, it’s complicated and no one part moving in isolation will shift the needle. We need to recognise these links and all play a part in the chain. This is at least one of the key messages from the newly launched initiative Tech Talent Charter (TTC), the brainchild of Debbie Forester MBE and a number of other organisations across the recruitment, tech and social enterprise fields. Long-time industry advocate, Debbie’s main goal is to get everyone in the same room and talking.

She couldn’t be more right and speaking our language. When Debbie approached Harvey Nash earlier this year to partner with TTC and help spread its mission, it was a no brainer; we were already living the values.

From our point of view as a prominent recruiter in the tech space, supply is of course part of the issue, but so is culture and some of the fundamentals of the recruitment process.

Over a decade ago we launched our first diversity initiative, Inspire — a network for women helping to advance gender diversity in the boardroom, which has since taught us a tremendous amount about gender differences and all the ways in which existing processes were blocking female progression.

Our evidence suggests that women step off the corporate ladder to more fulfilling roles in order to strike a balance between work and non-work responsibilities and interests, not least family.

We also found women reach a point in their career at the senior management level where they get fed up with the politics, presenteeism and power play and begin to disengage if they are not being heard, valued or passed over for opportunities.

This was not specific to the technology sector, but has been echoed anecdotally by many senior women working in the space.

Like the TTC, we’ve attempted to create a virtuous circle, using our knowledge and experience to help our clients become more inclusive and continuously sharing best practice through events, workshops, celebrating women in tech, addressing skills shortages and a Diversity & Inclusion podcast series.

But perhaps where we’ve seen the biggest impact has been on Harvey Nash itself where our external thinking informed our internal thinking and set the Group on its own journey. In 2015, we signed up to EY’s National Equality Standard, a rigorous accreditation for diversity and inclusion, and after 18 months of over-hauling our own culture we became the first recruitment firm to be certified.

We not only wanted to help our clients and candidates achieve their goals, we also want to be the best version of ourselves and create a place where people are proud to work. Since we started this journey it’s not been easy; holding brave conversations, challenging our own industry and learning and adapting our own approach.

As Debbie said at the TTC launch event, “We’re here to join the dots, not reinvent the wheel. This needs to be a story of collaboration and no one company can solve it alone.”

We very much see ourselves as having an important part to play in increasing diversity within tech and will continue to do what we can to share ideas and take actions back into how we recruit and manage our own talent.

What is your role? How do you think you can help?

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