Addressing the Tech Gender Gap

By Helen Mullings — Chief HR Officer at QuantumBlack

A shocking statistic was shared during our recent ‘Diversity of Perspective’ talk at the Royal Institution of Great Britain. In 1984, 37% of computer science majors in the US were women; by 2014 the same statistic was just 18%. In the UK the picture is equally bleak with women occupying only around 15% of technical roles in the AI/Technology sector. In 1988 I was one of 5 women from a group of 90 to complete a Chemical Engineering degree at Imperial College and it feels like very little has changed during my 30-year career.

Women appear to have opted out of the tech revolution to a large degree, thereby missing out on increasingly significant financial and social benefits and further re-enforcing the gender pay gap. The average salary for a woman working in technology is over twice the average salary for women overall, in the UK. At a national level, some recent work by McKinsey estimated that £36bn could be added to the UK economy if women achieved parity in technology roles across all industry sectors. We also risk a long-term structural bias in the technology landscape we are building today — the theme of our Royal Institution talk.

Research taken from the McKinsey & Company “Delivering through Diversity” report — January 2018.

At QuantumBlack we have been debating our role in addressing this critical issue. As a starting point, we believe it is important to put our own house in order by achieving gender parity across all roles and at all levels of seniority. We believe that diverse teams perform better and this is validated by research across 1,000 companies and 12 countries, that shows that organisations with gender diverse leadership teams outperform others by over 20%, in terms of financial performance. Our Formula One heritage attracts a very male-heavy audience and our current position is not one to be particularly proud of. Only two of our senior leadership team are women, our overall female representation is 25%, rising to 30% at more junior levels. While these statistics are above the industry average, we have a long way to go.

Research taken from the McKinsey & Company “Delivering through Diversity” report— January 2018.

I have the benefit of having been on this journey before; I helped to build the percentage of women in McKinsey’s UK consulting organisation from 20–35% over a ten-year period and double the number of female Partners. We know it will take time, and we know it will take many different interventions to create an environment where a disproportionate share of female technologists will choose to build their careers and advance to the most senior levels at QuantumBlack.

We are already making progress internally with visible metrics, active inclusion training, and most importantly a fantastically talented community of female data scientists, engineers, designers and analytics consultants. On November 16th, we will be showcasing our female technical talent and their work externally, at our Women as Tech Leaders event in our London office. The purpose is to share our experiences of developing and applying machine learning solutions on the frontline of global businesses and to connect and inspire female technologists who share our passion for using data responsibly and ethically to create a positive impact for our clients and society. We look forward to welcoming over 60 talented female technologists who will join us on the day, and to hosting similar events in the future.

However, we recognise that whilst creating an environment that will accelerate the growth of female tech leaders and role models is beneficial to the broader agenda, it could be perceived as self-serving, and doesn’t immediately address the broader industry participation issue. We’ve already started to work with school students, and girls in particular, to inspire the next generation into the exciting, culturally diverse and lucrative tech industry. But we are ready and enthusiastic to do more and are keen to connect with individuals or organisations who share our goals and would like to work with us on this critical agenda.

Further reading

Watch Principal Data Scientist, Martha Imprialou’s, talk about Augmented Intelligence.

Read Data Scientist, Ines Marusic’s Medium post about Tackling Fairness: Gender, Diversity & Algorithmic.

Read Solution Partner, Chris Wigley’s Medium post about our latest event around Diversity of Perspective at the Royal Institution.

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QuantumBlack, AI by McKinsey

QuantumBlack, AI by McKinsey

An advanced analytics firm operating at the intersection of strategy, technology and design. www.quantumblack.com @quantumblack