Alongside the pay gap is a more generalised gender disparity, with men continuing to outnumber women not only at director level but also at executive level. There are currently three men to each woman employed within the tech sector; by and large, the industry’s market leaders are not setting a good example.
Only Cisco has an executive board at anything approaching gender parity (43% female). Samsung, by way of contrast, has no women on its board and none at executive level. Apple has only three women board members.
These depressing figures are a problem for one clear reason: these are the companies that schoolchildren and students interested in entering the sector will look at when assessing their own chances within the sector. Without reasonable proportions of women at senior levels, potential new entrants are more likely to conclude that the gender barriers are too strong to permit them entry.
Failure to address gender barriers, including low female participation and the pay gap, risks damaging the industry. 2015 figures from the United States show that 500,000 new computing jobs emerged in the country that year; however, there were only 40,000 computer science graduates ready to take their first steps into employment.
Some of the responsibility belongs to schools, and indeed in the home. Finding new ways to engage girls in tech during their school years is vital, as the founder of Girls Who Code, Reshma Saujani, has pointed out on several occasions. So is dealing with the unjustified social stigma that still surrounds female entry into the tech sector.
Innovative school curriculums, teaching tailored to girls’ preferred methods of learning and measures to dismantle social barriers will all fail without sufficient female role models within the industry.
Without them and without evidence that female participation in the sector is appropriately remunerated, girls are more likely to conclude that coding and its affiliates are best kept for a hobby; consequently, it is not only essential to work on attracting new female entrants to the sector but also on retaining those already working within it. Addressing the gender pay gap is an obvious first step.
One thing at least is certain: doing nothing is not an option. This is not a problem that is set to vanish or to resolve itself. Female participation in the tech sector has already dropped by 37% since 1995, with a recent report from Accenture indicating that this slump will intensify over the next decade.
For the sake of the growing talent shortage within the industry and for the sake of equal rights, tech firms must acknowledge their responsibility and take action.
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