Even in the supposed age of equality, a question that is still being thrown around is ‘Why aren’t there more women in the technology sector?’. It seems that the momentum for change is growing from inside the industry itself. Woman’s Hour the other week ran a feature on how men are fighting for their techy sisters to be better represented at tech conferences. A group has even formed which aims to boycott conferences that have an all male line-up. Doing some digging, I discovered that according to a recent report, only 17% of jobs in technology are held by women. While this obviously means that there are simply fewer women in the sector to choose from when selecting spokespeople for stories or speaker slots at conferences, women are still under-represented in technology. Instead of asking ‘Why?’ I found myself asking ‘What?’. What does the lack of female representation in technology mean for the industry and what is the industry doing to lure more women in?
The first answer is it makes for an industry that is ‘out of touch’. Without a female force in the boardroom, decisions are made that can result in a real turn off for 50% of the consumer base. Take for instance Google’s idea to run an algorithm to work out why women weren’t staying at the company. Or the ‘pink it and shrink it’ idea employed by many consumer tech brands in an attempt to reach the female market. Both of which only go to reinforce the gender gap. Instead of looking at stats or telling women what they want, why don’t brands start talking to find out what women really want?
And that is what some companies have publically begun to do. The recent announcement of Alicia Keys’ appointment as Global Creative Director at BlackBerry teamed with other BlackBerry announcements spread the message to an untapped generation that technology companies are at last listening to them to bring more women into the technology fold. Miss Keys follows in the footsteps of Lady Gaga, who in 2010 became Creative Director of Polaroid. But are these popstars really what the industry needs to show that it is changing? Why does tech need to borrow the music industry’s big stars? There are plenty of would be women tech superstars out there doing much more interesting things then just appearing at launch events.
Marissa Mayer’s move from Google to Yahoo certainly secured a lot of news coverage, but what about other women in technology? How often do you see them being covered in the press? When was the last time you saw Sandy Carter, Cher Wang or Susie Wee in the press, outside of ‘Women in technology’ lists? These women are doing fantastic things for their companies as well as the industry itself, so can we just hear about them a bit more please? My belief is that there is a want and a need for more women in technology to start making their presence and influence known for the benefit of the industry as well as the consumers. So come on ladies, throw your hands up at me.