Women in technology: Challenges & Opportunities

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In today’s rapidly advancing day and age, one might think that gender should no longer play a role in work these days. Far from it – this view of technology being “male” centric is a notion that continues to persist in this day and age and prevents many girls and young women from even considering the exciting professional field.

Table of content:

  1. The challenges for women in technology
  2. The opportunities of women in technology
  3. How’s freelancing for women in IT?

What is stopping women from entering the IT field? – The Challenges

Sheryl Sandberg, Technology Executive, discusses in a TED talkthe reasons as to what is stopping women from STEM fields (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

If we want to take a look at what throws women off more technical careers, it is important to focus on the past, current and future performance of women in STEM industries. To do this, let’s first analyze the key issues that women face.

1. Disparity based on gender

A tech survey report shows that 63 percent of the women surveyed in tech occupations believe that they are disadvantaged due to their gender. Whether this occurred in the form of rejecting their suggestions, constant interruptions in meetings or even preferential treatment towards male colleagues when it comes to promotions.

“The quality, relevance, and impact of the products and services output by the technology sector can only be improved by having the people who are building them be demographically representative of the people who are using them.”Tracy Chou — Software Engineer at Pinterest

Having a more even playing field will undoubtedly improve STEM output. Creating a more technologically advanced world is only possible when both sides of the human population have a hand at creating that world.

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2. Lack of visible role models

In addition, 43 percent of the survey participants indicated that the lack of female role models was a major sore point within the technology industries. This can certainly explain why we don’t often see women enter the field. It may be hard to find a mentor you can relate to and connect with.

According to the Gender Gap Report 2020, we can observe that gender gaps are evident in specific skilled technical roles.

Comparison Women and men across professional cluster and tech industries
Women and men workers across different professional clusters and tech industries

Women make up an estimated 26% of workers in Data and AI roles, 15% of workers in Engineering roles and 12% of workers in Cloud Computing roles.

3. Unfair wages

Even in 2020, the fact is that regardless of the industry, women earn less on average than men. The Global Gender Gap Report presented the gender pay gap and how it reflects across the globe. To date, there is still a 31.4% average gender gap that remains to be closed globally.

Disparity in wages is perhaps one of the biggest reasons why women do not look towards careers in STEM. 

Wage gap evolution 2010 - 2019 OECD countries
Wage gap evolution 2010 – 2019 OECD countries

On the plus side, however, this year’s edition of the Global Gender Gap Index sees four Nordic countries in the top four positions of the global gender gap list.

Iceland is once again the most gender-equal country in the world for the 11th time in a row. It has closed almost 88% of its overall gender gap, further improving since last year.

The same report saw Germany ranked on the 10th place with a score of 0.787. A bit of a setback compared to the country being ranked 5th in 2006.

Germany score Global Gender Gap Report 2020
Germany score Global Gender Gap Report 2020

While figures pertaining to equal wages are finally being given center stage, there is still a considerable delay in ensuring women are equally compensated for their skills and time. But with Nordic countries being at the forefront of parity, the future holds promise.
 

“We cannot change what we are not aware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change.”Sheryl Sandberg, Technology Executive

How do we get more women in technology? – The opportunities


1. Closing the gap in education

While the gap in Educational Attainment is relatively small on average, there are still considerable improvements that can be made – especially at the primary level. There are still countries where investment in women’s talent is insufficient.

Following the example of Germany, we see that only 19% of women are within the STEM industry (vs.53% of men) or 9% in engineering vs 35% men.

Germany score - Contextual data for education and skills
Contextual data for education and skills on the German Gender Gap Pay Score

2. More women speaking up and fighting for their rights

Women are waking up and joining forces. There are more and more women fighting for gender equality both famous people and citizens from all over the world. The message of equality is shared on galas, documentaries and social media.

This support moves people to go out to the streets, as did thousands of women on Women’s Day in Spain in 2018. The reality now is that according to a survey by Reina Sofia Centre on Adolescence and Youth, the majority of women aged 15 to 29 in Spain call themselves feminists, as do more than a third of young men.

And so it comes as no surprise that the World Economic Forum lists Spain as one of the most-improved countries in the Global Gender Gap index this year.

3. More role models

An important aspect of attaining equality within the STEM industries is recognizing that men do not have a claim on certain professions. Society is slowly understanding the importance of more women in IT and STEM. This can start at a primary level. Schools can help cater to girls on how interesting STEM fields can be.

Luckily we see more women speaking up at conferences and supporting other women in social media. Girls need to get involved in mentoring programs with successful women in the technology industry that act and encourage them to get interested in computers and tech. Already successful women can get more girls in STEM.

Women in IT and Freelancing

With all the challenges, many talented women are becoming freelancers and starting their own businesses to be their own boss.

The freelancermap 2019 survey provided some interesting insights regarding gender norms within the IT freelance industry as well. Just under 53% of women claimed to be happy with their level of income – reflecting a similar stance with full time employees. 

When compared to 70% of men who were happy with their income, the takeaway is clear: Although freelancing is a fantastic approach to more women in STEM industries, there’s still a long way ahead.

Here’s an overview of the insights extracted from the freelancer survey:

Freelancing in IT - Men vs Women Comparison

In conclusion, it is a given: women could further contribute to several tech based industries and the diverse roles within them. This could all be made possible if current barriers could be addressed.


What are your thoughts? We’d love to hear in the comments below and please feel free to share your experience as an IT woman with us!

Natalia Campana

Natalia is part of the international team at freelancermap. She loves the digital world, social media and meeting different cultures. Before she moved to Germany and joined the freelancermap team she worked in the US, UK and her home country Spain. Now she focuses on helping freelancers and IT professionals to find jobs and clients worldwide at www.freelancermap.com

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