The 8th of March, known worldwide as International Women’s Day is a global day where we celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements made by women. This day represents the continued fight for equality and the elimination of discrimination and bias between genders.
But, how far we’ve come toward gender equality in STEM, especially in technology, and how far do we have to go? Let’s deep dive into the past and current state of women’s representation and challenges in the tech industry.
A bit of history – Female pioneers in computer science
Women have played a key role in the field of technology and computer science since its creation. Women programmed the very first computer, wrote the code that landed men on the moon, and came up with the idea for computer programs a century before the invention of computers. Just a few of the achievements women have made in information technology
- Creating the first computer program -The first computer programmer was a woman named Augusta Ada King, (1815–1852) an English mathematician and writer. In 1843, she wrote the first algorithm for Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine, an early mechanical general-purpose computer, and was the first to recognize the full potential of a ‘computing machine’, suggesting it had applications beyond pure calculations. Her work is considered to be the foundation of modern computer programming and paved the way for future generations of women in tech.
- Inventing computing methods and devices, like the compiler – Grace Hopper (1906–1992) devised the theory of machine-independent programming languages, which led to the creation of COBOL – an early high-level programming language still in use today. Hopper is also the inventor of the compiler, an intermediate program that translates English language instructions into the language of the target computer. This invention influenced other computing developments, like code optimization,
subroutines, and formula translation.
- Critical Space Calculations – Katherine Johnson (1918-2020) American mathematician – helped confirm the accuracy of electronic computers used by NASA and performed critical calculations that ensured safe space travel from the 1950s on.
Now days – The status of women in tech today
The tech industry is one of the most rapidly growing industries in the world. It offers amazing opportunities for those who are skilled in coding, programming, and other technical fields.
However, we are facing the fact that women are still a small fraction of the technology workforce. According to McKinsey and Eightfold Analysis (January 2023) women occupy only 22 percent of all tech roles across European companies and only one in five senior leaders is a woman.
Women face significant challenges when it comes to working in tec. Some of the reasons are:
- Educational gap in STEM Studies (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). – Equality in technology should start from the root- education. According to recent statistics, worldwide only 35% of STEM students are female and there is a significant drop in the percentage of women in STEM classes happening at two points: during the transition from primary and secondary education to university and second from university to workforce.
- Lack of female role models in the field. – One of the biggest challenges women in tech face is a lack of role models. Women are underrepresented in tech companies, especially in leadership positions. A lack of role models can lead to a feeling of isolation and discouragement. When you don’t see anyone like yourself in a position of power, it can be easy to feel like you don’t belong or that you can’t succeed.
- Lack of talent pool – The first two points lead to the next one – lack of a talent pool. Because fewer women are studying technology-based subjects at school and university, employers have fewer women to choose from when recruiting. The reason for this can also boil down to the lack of female role models in the tech industry for young girls to
follow in their footsteps and study these subjects.
- Gender bias in the workplace – Another challenge that women in tech face is gender bias. Unequal growth opportunities with male coworkers and less wage for the same position. Studies have shown that men are more likely to be promoted than women, even when they have comparable qualifications. 70 percent of women in tech, in fact,
still feel like they need to work harder and prove themselves because of their gender (the state of gender equity in tech, Web summit 2022). Women are also often judged more harshly than men when it comes to their work performance. This bias can make it difficult for women to be taken seriously and to advance their careers.
Quick Women in Tech Statistics
- In 2022, women make up only 22% of the tech workforce globally (McKinsey).
- In 2020, women in tech earned nearly 8% less than men (US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission).
- In 2020, only 5% of C-suite positions in tech companies are held by women (McKinsey).
- Only 6% of user profiles on GitHub are female ( Adeva )
- 5% of tech start-ups are owned by women ( Adeva )
- The ratio of men to women in engineering is 5:1 ( Adeva )
Why the IT industry needs more women
The IT Industry is among the fastest-growing industries in the world. Companies are struggling to find qualified talent due to the ever-evolving and rapidly growing world of technology. A new study by McKinsey Digital reveals that Europe could solve its talent gap if more women chose to work in tech. By doubling the share of women in tech would also mean a large GDP increase.
Increased Business Revenue
An easy-to-grasp reason for why we need women in the technology jobs is the benefit they bring to the bottom line of a business. Women offer new ways of thinking that result in innovation and better problem-solving. A McKinsey analysis found that companies with more gender diversity on their leadership teams were 25% more likely to hit above-average profits.
Diversity & Innovation
We want technology to advance in a way that caters to all consumers, regardless of their gender and race. Computer science engineers designing innovative technologies need to represent the voice of the consumers. Representation can only happen if companies have diverse teams. If nearly half of the consumers are women, it should be common sense to have around half of the product manufacturing, engineering, and marketing done by women.
Better Problem-Solving for Better Results
Being adept at problem-solving is not gender-specific. Both women and men find solutions to problems regardless of their gender. However, better problem-solving requires out-of-the-box thinking and fresh ideas. Gender equality and diversity in the workforce would be a simple way to bring new ideas to the table.
The Bright Future
Despite the challenges faced by women in technology, there are incredible glass-ceiling breakers in the industry. Women’s roles in IT and computer science continue to thrive today, as women are inventing new technologies, improving programming, and providing the public with tools that can be used to lead better lives.
Here are some of the top women in technology who are breaking glass ceilings:
Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube
Susan Wojcicki is now one of the most influential women in technology, who has been in the tech industry for over two decades. She was involved in the founding of Google and later became one of their first employees and their very first marketing manager. Susan helped create AdSense, the advertising part of Google that generates a huge percentage
of income for the company. After suggesting the acquisition of YouTube, she became the CEO in 2014.
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook
American technology executive who was chief operating officer (COO) of Facebook from 2008 till August 2022, Sheryl has been the brain behind Facebook’s ad-centric business strategy. She helped establish Facebook as a platform for small businesses and helped make the company become a billion tech giant.
Amy Hood, Executive Vice President and CFO at Microsoft
As chief financial officer for the world’s largest software company since 2013 Amy Hood is managing Microsoft’s business operations, acquisitions, treasury, tax planning, global real estate, accounting and reporting, internal audit, and investor relations.
Reshma Saujani, Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code
Reshma Saujani is the most important name in the women’s tech industry. She is the founder of Girls Who Code (2012), the national nonprofit organization working to close the gender gap in technology and change the image of what a programmer looks like and does. The organization aimed to increase the number of women in the computer science field and has
served more than 450000 girls to date.
Being a woman in technology is powerful. Gender shouldn’t matter as long as you have an interest. And today with increased opportunities, evolutionary workplace practices and the slow breaking down of barriers there are many more opportunities for women in this field than ever before. Women in technology are shaping the future of tech, choosing a path full of bright
opportunities and helping lead the way for millions of women do the same.