In just a few short weeks, the coronavirus has derailed many business’ long-term and immediate plans.
Yet while it is difficult to look beyond the current disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are other pressing concerns in the world of tech that demand our attention – both during and after this pandemic.
By this, I am referring specifically to the gender diversity crisis; an issue that the sector has grappled with for many decades. Yet, to date, the drive to introduce true equality has felt like an uphill battle. This is not for a lack of trying; indeed, many businesses have taken measures to foster more inclusive working environments. But there is still much more work to be done.
Earlier this year, Studio Graphene conducted a nationally representative body of research to learn more about the state of (in)equality in the UK tech sector. Amongst other findings, it found that the perception of tech as something of an all-boys club still stands – almost two-thirds, or 62%, of female professionals agree that the image of the industry as being male-dominated continues to act as a deterrent for women to enter the sector.
There is no time like the present to make lasting change, and I hope that the insights from some of my female team members will help other business leaders understand how they can close the gap on gender inequality.
Are the tables turning?
To determine what is still left to be done, we must first see how far we have come. From this point of view, Akansha, our India HR Manager, believes that times have certainly changed. Having worked in the industry for many years now, she states: “it’s tough for me to comment that being a female in tech put me at a disadvantage.”
While I hope this speaks in part to the office culture we have tried to create at Studio Graphene, some of our team acknowledge that there are still many problems that businesses must work harder to address. Shipra, who is a lead engineer and part of our senior team, believes that there is still a tendency to compare women to their male peers. Because of this, “women [often] don’t even realise that they are eligible for promotions as they’re too busy proving their worth where they are.”
Meanwhile Sakshi, a mobile iOS developer based in our Delhi office, notes failings that, not for a lack of attention, have yet to be rectified. Specifically, she notes the absence of equal remuneration and an ignorance of female contributions as core obstacles in the progression of women in technical areas.
Levelling the playing field
So where does this leave us? While we cannot deny that progress has been made, we are far from achieving a level playing field.
One mistake that is commonly made is being too preoccupied with numbers. Equal pay for equal work must necessarily be the norm across all companies, however other measures like 50-50 gender splits in boardrooms risk harming, rather than inspiring, progress. While popular, such measures receive lower support than you might expect; 43% of women in tech believe that positive discrimination such as this would negatively impact on the growth of businesses.
Rather than relying on rigid gender quotas that don’t add any real value to the business, I would encourage business leaders to take a ‘proactively neutral’ approach throughout the recruitment process and an employee’s journey within the company.