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Why we need more women in tech & how we make that happen

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ARTICLE SUMMARY

Hannah Jeacock from MHR delves into why we need more women in tech and gives her tips and advice on how companies can achieve this.

Hannah is Research Director at HR, payroll, and finance software provider MHR.

women in tech

In her role at the company, Hannah explores how new technology and ideas can bring value to MHR’s customers, employees, and the wider world of work. With nearly 20 years’ of experience in software and technology, she has worked in software engineering, management and leadership roles. Hannah’s research focuses on topics such as the future of work, the implications of AI and automation, and improving the employee experience. Additionally, Hannah is a champion for Women in Tech and is involved in initiatives to help young people begin their career in tech. 

With the appearance of generative AI, technology is no longer just for coders, but is accessible and user-friendly, expanding career opportunities for all.

However, just 24% of roles in tech today are filled by women. This is a staggering figure given the importance that technology plays in almost every business today.

As the Research Director at MHR, I have witnessed how embracing technology can revolutionise traditional practices. The introduction of cutting-edge solutions has improved efficiency, while also helped our customers navigate complex workforce management challenges. For companies to remain competitive, they must integrate technology seamlessly into their operations. From streamlining HR processes to enhancing financial management and revolutionising payroll systems, technology can greatly contribute towards efficiency and productivity gains. But if organisations don’t do more to encourage women into technology roles, they will face a skills gap that could leave them trailing their rivals.

The tech sector can benefit from a more diverse skillset

While it is clear to see why the tech industry is an exciting place to work at the moment, one of the most common misconceptions for women considering a career in the sector is that they don’t have the necessary skills. In fact, a study by Code First Girls found that 77% of women looking to switch careers into the tech sector cited lack of confidence as the biggest barrier.

Previous research, including from the Havard Business Review and Forbes, has shown that among similarly qualified men and women, men are more willing to apply for a given role. This means that the tech sector is already likely to be missing out on female talent on the basis of a ‘confidence gap’ when it comes to job applications.

Even if some women interested in the tech sector do not have hard, technical skills, we have moved far beyond the days when skill requirements were limited to technical acumen, such as coding and software engineering. The breadth of work available in, and required by, the tech sector is so broad that there is something to suit everyone. A recent survey by Amazon Web Services and Access Partnership actually found that employers think critical thinking and complex problem solving are more important than technical skills when hiring for people to use AI tools. Creativity, communication and the ability to learn quickly are also important traits.

The last of these is particularly relevant in the tech sector. With tech advancements happening so rapidly, a specific role in the tech sector can look very different year to year. Employers in the tech sector are therefore looking for candidates who are able to pick up new skills and adapt to change effectively.

At the same time, diversity of thought is becoming increasingly important. Companies are beginning to understand that diversity is not just a box-ticking exercise, but that innovation thrives in environments that embrace inclusivity. Diverse teams, composed of individuals with varying backgrounds and experiences, bring a richness of ideas that propels organisations forward.

Enabling women in tech

Technology today may well be a great career for women, but how do we actually enable more women to enter and thrive in the industry?

A whitepaper from Microsoft argues that we have to start early, finding that there is a four year window, between 12 and 16, when women become attracted to STEM subjects. This means that businesses should be working with schools and other educational institutions to promote tech as a career path for women and encourage the development of skills in this area. Relevant activities that I’ve personally been involved in over the years have included hosting workshops exploring different careers in tech and visiting and promoting STEM to  school students.

Raising awareness about tech as a career at an early age can create a foundation for addressing the tech skills gap, but the work does not stop there. The same study found that there are five drivers for women to get involved in tech: female role models, practical experience, teacher mentors, real-life applications and confidence in equality. Companies therefore need to re-evaluate recruitment processes, mentorship programs, and create a workplace environment that values diverse perspectives and takes proactive measures to champion diversity.

The tech industry is one of the most exciting places to be at the moment, with technology playing a central role in the vast majority of companies’ growth plans over the coming year. For companies to fully benefit from the tech revolution, it is essential that they maximise the talent pool they can draw upon by enabling and encouraging women to work in the industry. To find out more about MHR’s innovative approach to HR solutions, check out People First here.

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