Why we need more women in tech – and quickly

Austin Clark discusses the need for more female GovTech leaders on the day a new campaign is launched by the Mayor of London to tackle a lack of women leaders in the public sector

Today’s launch of a bold new plan to tackle the lack of women leaders in the public sector by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is a very welcome new initiative (see video below).

Called ‘Our Time: Supporting Future Leaders’, the scheme is the first and largest-scale programme of its kind to be adopted in the public sector. The new scheme will take crucial action to address the gender imbalance in leadership roles, and bridge the gender pay gap.

Our Time will work through pairing high-potential women with senior staff champions (men and women) who will help to open up the professional networks, opportunities and contacts often needed to progress within workplaces.

This programme is, in my opinion, well overdue. Research by the BCS shows that fewer than one in five IT workers in the UK are female and those that do carve a living from the industry are paid – on average – 15 per cent less than men.

In its Diversity Report, the Chartered Institute for IT looked at the make-up of IT professionals, the nature of their employment and their salary. It found that 17 per cent of the IT crowd were female. Just 10 per cent of women hold IT director roles. When looking specifically at the public sector, the figures are no better. According to Deloitte, fewer than 25 per cent of IT jobs worldwide were held by women by the end of 2016.

 

A clear need

These stats make for depressing reading – for a number of reasons.

Much is made of digital transformation in the public sector – and I firmly believe we need females to be involved in service design. After all, females make up half the user base. Tech is all too often designed for great big man bodies, and not for women.

As we are becoming more and more dependent on technology, it makes up an increasingly important part of our everyday lives. It’s therefore obvious that women should be as influential in development and creation as men. Having a company made up of people who approach problems in different ways is good. For example, the woman on your team might be more likely to draw out the opinions of the quiet people. Diversity of thought is good for business!

Secondly, we have a digital skills and recruitment problem – so we need more people in tech. Diversity is therefore vitally important. Education is a big barrier – girls just aren’t studying STEM subjects if figures are anything to go by – but hopefully this can be changed by having more women in tech now.

By celebrating female tech leaders it will hopefully encourage more girls to pursue their own interest and careers in tech. That’s why we’ve just launched our Female GovTech Leaders ranking to celebrate women who wield significant influence, foster change and spearhead important teams and initiatives within all levels of the public sector. The more we shout about influential females in our sector the better.

 

A starting point

Returning to the launch of ‘Our Time’, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “It is shameful that in 2018 women remain under-represented at all levels of government and leadership roles. As a proud feminist, I want London to be a shining light in the fight for gender equality. This is why we are launching ‘Our Time’ to support more women into leadership positions in the capital. I am pleased that we are showing the way, launching the first and biggest initiative like this in the public sector.

“But today is about more than just the action we are taking here – all of us must tackle inequality wherever we see it. I want to encourage all industries across the capital to commit to addressing the shocking imbalance we still see in positions of power today through adopting ‘Our Time’.

“This year marks 100 years since the first women secured the right to vote, and through our #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign, we are celebrating the success of women in our great city, but also taking bold action to remove the barriers to women’s success, to unlock their full potential.”

Few can argue with those words and hopefully others will follow suit with similar campaigns. Diversity simply must increase – and sooner rather than later.

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