Boosting women in STEM and balancing inequalities

By Vesela Nikolova, Bulgarian Centre Director at Amdaris
Vesela Nikolova, Bulgarian Centre Director of Bristol-based software developer and digital transformation specialist Amdaris, shares her unique insight

Tech has always been a heavily male-dominated industry. Fortunately, this has improved and evolved over the years, with a steady surge of female talent revolutionising the STEM sector. However, there’s still a long way to go before we reach an equal gender balance in this space.

Even though the number of women in tech is rising, there are still challenges and barriers to overcome, including tackling stereotypes and improving the lack of opportunities. According to Tech Nation, the tech workforce is currently made up of just 19% of women and in 2020 only 23% of employees at Google, Apple and Facebook were women. This doesn’t reflect the fact that 74% of girls show an interest in a career in a STEM field. 

The issues don’t stop there. According to a recent study from WeAreTechWomen, 75% of women working in tech say that they don't feel like they receive adequate support and respect from male colleagues. Two-thirds of the respondents feel unheard in meetings. 

Furthermore, figures show an imbalance of promotions when it comes to men and women working in senior roles. This increased at the start of the pandemic when 34% of men versus 9% of women received a promotion and 26% of men versus 13% of women got a pay rise, leaving women at a greater disadvantage even though both genders were in the same situation. 

Education and tackling gender stereotypes

The best way to tackle the gender imbalance in tech is to equip young women with the necessary tools and education. A recent study from London Tech Week found that 68% of respondents believe that gender perception is the biggest obstacle for women entering the tech industry. Furthermore, 48% of respondents blamed the lack of support during schooling as the biggest barrier to entry. 

This showcases that the main issue is not a lack of female interest in the field, but stereotypes in society that lead women to bypass this domain and opt for careers outside of tech. We must eradicate these old-fashioned ways of thinking from our education systems. Schools should focus on building environments that promote balanced support for all students’ career aspirations. 

Internships and workshops 

Companies organising internships and workshops hosted by female tech leaders in schools and universities can make an enormous difference. Not only do these experiences allow young women to gain an awareness of the tech sector early on, but it also gives them the opportunity to be inspired by positive role models and see first-hand that the tech industry is open for all genders. 

Through leading IT companies launching Software Development internship programmes for students, for example, young women can be mentored by some of the most skilled people in the industry, as well as learn about the latest innovations and technologies, which may spark their interest in pursuing a career in this field.  

Mentorships and career progression opportunities 

A lot of women interested in tech are afraid to make a switch in their career paths due to a fear of the unknown and lack of personal resources. Companies should, therefore, offer mentorship schemes for females working in different sectors, such as HR or marketing, who are interested in making a career move. 

Employees going through a job transition should receive adequate training and mentoring from relatable female role models to smooth this process of change. Once employed, it’s the company’s responsibility to provide transparent career-progression opportunities, encouraging female employees to grow and upskill themselves on a continuous basis. 

The bottom line

Tech companies and business leaders need to provide more support to women currently working in this field, as well as more opportunities to females looking to join it. In 2022, we hope to see more big technology firms stepping up and providing women in tech with internships, workshops and mentoring, as well as equal opportunity for career progression. 

Furthermore, with a lot of stereotypes still prominent in our work and education systems, the best way to achieve a better gender balance is to teach current and future generations that a perfect career choice is based on personal skills, interests, knowledge and experience, not gender. Although this may be easier said than done, it is vital to open more opportunities for young women who might previously have felt discouraged to join this exciting field. 

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