Women in tech - where are they?

Posted 12 March 2019

The tech industry has amassed many highly skilled, exceptional people, but unfortunately not many of them are women.

According to the Australian Government Office of the Chief Scientist, based on data from the 2011 Census of Population and Housing, the total STEM workforce in Australia totals 2.3 million with only 16% of those being female.

What should you be paid for your role?

According to the Foundation of Young People, over 30% of women who graduate STEM-related courses at university leave the industry within 15 years. On average, women in STEM receive less pay than their male counterparts and frequently face discrimination and harassment in the workplace - by their colleagues.

In 2016, the gender pay gap in Professional, Scientific and Technical Services was 23.5%. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, women make up 46.2% of all employees, but in technology roles the percentage of women drops to between 28-31%.

The differences are significant.

Let’s get specific about the Tech industry.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a critical in demand skillset of the future, however according to the Global Gender Gap Report 2018 (WEF), only 22% of AI professionals globally are female, compared to 78% who are male. Here in Australia the stats are similar with 24% female and 76% male.

Low integration of women into AI talent pools indicates a significant missed opportunity in a professional domain where there is already insufficient supply of adequately qualified labour.

In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.

The business case for diversity

For businesses to remain competitive and retain and recruit skilled talent, diversity is key.

A McKinsey study from 2015 examined data for 366 public companies across a range of industries in a variety of countries. It found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.

Further, in 2016, the Peterson Institute for International Economics and Ernst & Young released a report which found that companies with at least 30% female leaders had net profit margins up to 6% higher than companies with no women in senior ranks.

Research is showing us that there is significant profit to be had by employing more women, whilst also showing us that we are not making it attractive to females to work in the tech industry.  Clearly there is a disconnect.

What can we do to attract & retain more women in the Tech sector?

Male dominated industries are not appealing to young female graduates. As such, workplaces need to proactively source and reach out to females and purposely make mindful change in the sector.

Ways to do this include;

  1. Use more diverse imagery in marketing materials.Young women can’t be what they can’t see – show them what is possible.
  2. Is there gender bias copy used in your recruitment ads? Look through your copy using a balanced lens, many times the words we use are more appealing to males than females.
  3. Address the pay gap. Conduct an internal pay gap analysis and make changes where changes need to be made.
  4. Highlight the women you do have in your organisation. Can they be mentors to young female graduates just starting out. Mentorship is extremely beneficial to any young person starting their career.
  5. Highlight the career paths available. Provide information on where a career in tech can lead and the options that are available now and in the future.

The significant lack of female role models combined with a lack of understanding of what it is like to work within the technology space is what is holding young females back. Organisations should also consider partnering with both secondary and tertiary education providers, to help inform students in what the tech space can offer them and highlight the career paths available. Both the University of Melbourne and the University of Sydney are in the top five universities in Asia Pacific that STEM women graduates.

Modis as part of The Adecco Group have conducted a pay gap analysis and adjusted our business based on the findings. To better understand what your position is worth, please also refer to our 2019 salary guide which highlights salaries for positions across Australia.

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