By Lina Arshad
The tech industry has come under fire for many years for its lack of diversity and encouragement of certain groups of professionals, leaving it as a white male-oriented field for a long time. And to some extent, it still is. Statistics from Tech Nation reveal that men account for 81% of the tech workforce, and women the remaining 19%.
While this stat shows a major gender disparity still exists in the industry, it wouldn’t be fair to say things haven’t somewhat improved compared to the past. Research from Anita B showed that in 2020, women made up 28.8% of the tech workforce, which demonstrated a steady increase from the figures in 2018 and 2019;25.9% and 26.2% respectively. But compared to the previous figure from Tech Nation you soon see that the pandemic has had a massive knock-on effect on gender equality and wider diversity efforts across the tech space, as well as many other industries.
But as many countries across the globe begin to emerge from the health crisis and start to adapt to the new normal, it’s worth revisiting the important questions; are there enough women working in, and being represented within in the Microsoft ecosystem, and how can we change the dial to improve the number of females entering and working in the industry at any one time?
In this blog post, we will be exploring both of these questions in finer detail.
Women in tech have been underrepresented for years now, and for many reasons. For one, STEM subjects aren’t highly encouraged to enough girls at school age, when their interest can be best piqued, but also because they are being held back by social biases and expectations which dictate the quality of their education and the route it leads into their career. In fact, so much so, that despite women making up almost half of the total US workforce, the US Census Bureau reported that just 27% of them were STEM workers in 2021.
While this in itself is an alarming stat, it is further proof that women are, and have long been, majorly underrepresented in this industry. But what’s more is that the previous Tech Nation report also revealed that 72% of Tech Director roles are held by men—leaving just 23% of senior leadership roles with women. This further illustrates the problems with getting women into tech—first, that they don’t see enough female senior leaders in the industry to help defeat the biases around it being an industry for males. But second, because when there’s an absence of people that look like us or belong to the same groups as us, we tend to be steered away from pursuing those routes; both to stick to societal norms, but also to avoid humiliation or discomfort.
When considering this issue, coupled with research like that from Women Who Tech which has found 44% of women founders have been harassed at work, and almost 50% were told they’d raise more funds if they were a man, there’s no wonder many women aren’t looking to the tech industry as their first choice.
That being said, with diversity and inclusion best practices at the forefront for many businesses post-pandemic — as employees and job seekers contribute to the Great Resignation by upping and leaving companies that they don’t share values and beliefs with — changes are being made to protect women.
For example, Microsoft itself has plenty of global diversity and inclusion initiatives to help make the ecosystem fairer and more equal for people of all backgrounds, including providing scholarship opportunities for passionate females wanting to break into the industry, and more specifically, into the Microsoft family.
But with unexpected conditions as a result of the pandemic and the knock-on effects on the economy, and businesses using the lessons learnt from this event to restructure and restrategize, the number of women appearing within the Microsoft ecosystem has fallen, and if we want to ensure our industry remains rich with innovation, it’s crucial that we address this now before it’s too late.
With McKinsey finding that $12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality, it’s crucial that we make larger collective efforts to increase female representation in tech, and Microsoft in particular, to change the narrative and level the playing field for women joining these STEM careers.
But do you know what you should be doing to help encourage more women to work in the Microsoft industry? Here are our top 5 tips.
In the following section, we will be providing more detail on how you can achieve each of these by making small, manageable changes within your business.
The actions that can be taken will differ between businesses and will depend on what businesses already do to promote diversity and gender equality. Although we’re all operating at different levels of diversity, there are some things we can all be focusing on that will collectively help encourage more women into the tech industry, and specifically, to work in the Microsoft ecosystem.
No matter how small your company is, the moves we make internally can have a substantial knock-on effect to the larger ecosystem, especially if you do something that’s measurably impactful. But, before you begin implementing diversity policies, it’s worth looking into how your company is ranking in terms of diversity currently.
Think about carrying out an internal assessment to see what you do for gender equality. For example, how does the pay of women versus men in your company differ for similar roles or levels of the business? What is the ratio of men to women like in your company? Do you have any initiatives or employee social groups that are aimed at supporting women in tech?
As well as doing your own research, it’ll be worth asking your employees for feedback, because while you may be doing enough one area from your perspective, others may disagree and have other ideas. Opening the floor to everyone to give their opinions on what could be tweaked or changed to attract more women to the business, or how you could level the playing field, will be key in instigating necessary change—rather than just imitating policies you’ve seen that have worked for other companies. So, consider holding a focus group, or sending out an anonymous survey where employees can give their honest feedback, and provide suggestions for improvement.
Some of the main barriers that exist and stop women from pursuing a career in tech comes down to the fact that in general, women aren’t targeted with the messaging of how lucrative and fruitful a tech career can be, and there’s particularly an absence in the promotion of STEM careers to women from a young age. In fact, research from the US Census Bureau has reported that women make up nearly half of the US workforce, but only 27% are STEM workers. In addition to this, We Are Tech Women stated that one of the keys to solving this issue and encouraging more women to follow STEM routes is to highlight the presence of female role models in the industry, and more importantly so, to do this when they’re still in school and can make subject choices to suit working in these industries.
But how can you help? Well, for one, organizations can volunteer to speak to younger females about the potential of working in tech. For example, by organizing school visits, or you could even create your own internal materials including white papers, blog posts, and webinars that give females within your company a platform to talk about their experience breaking into the industry and to show women of all ages that there is a place for them in the industry.
When women do break into the industry, they’re often not granted the learning and development opportunities necessary for them to progress up the tech career ladder. According to the findings from SkillSoft’s 2021 Women in Tech report, 86% of respondents cited that professional development and training is extremely, or very, important to them—yet only 42% said they were being offered it at the time. On top of that, the results of our own Careers and Hiring Guide: Microsoft 365 and Azure Edition 2021-22, show that Microsoft professionals (both men and women) would be motivated to leave their current role in search of a new one if they were experiencing a lack of career and promotional prospects (41%), to undertake new challenges (32%), as well as if they were being given a lack of exposure to the latest Microsoft products (22%).
All this research highlights just how important learning and development opportunities are to Microsoft professionals, and that this heightens when it’s women as they traditionally missed out on opportunities because they weren’t given the same training as men. So, what can your business do?
For one, you need to ensure the women currently in your business, and ones who may think about joining in the future, have access to the time and resources required for training and development. For example, the same SkillSoft report found that women in tech seek scheduling capabilities (34%), relevant course availability (32%), and hands-on practice (32%). This can include freeing up their schedule for an hour or so weekly and assigning things like courses or webinars to watch.
Certification is huge in the Microsoft community, with 85% of professionals who hold certifications saying that they think they make you more marketable. Those who didn’t hold any certifications reported having employer funding (51%) and paid time off to attend training and to study (43%) would convince them to take examinations. So, lending support whether financial or in terms of time, for employees to complete certifications could help attract more female talent to your business.
The content you put out is intended to be powerful, but did you know just how influential it can be in ensuring only a certain type of person applies to join your company, or has a vested interest in it? And while you may sometimes be targeting a certain person with your materials, for example business owners or those that are experienced in roles you’re recruiting for, these resources can sometimes have a negative impact on diversity.
So, before you go to reuse the job ad you put out a couple of years ago, now is the time to revisit it and check that you’re not using gendered language or listing more skills and requirements than are actually necessary for the role; both of these can deter women from applying. Need more advice? Read our recent article on attracting more diverse talent with your job ads.
Even if you’re not currently hiring, it’s worth knowing that your marketing materials can reflect certain biases when they’ve not been carefully thought about from a diversity perspective. For example, if your website and social media images only show males, it’s not going to make women feel welcome and could put off great female talent from applying. So, think about who your audience could be and be sure to represent them.
If your efforts to recruit more females are falling flat, why not introduce a recruitment partner to help you? These organizations are experts in finding talent, and many have specific specialisms which aim to support underrepresented groups in tech, like females, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and those with disabilities or neurodiversity. For example, here at Nigel Frank, our Women in Tech practice aims to help diverse women connect with tech organizations. Not only that, but they also use their expertise on attracting women into tech by hosting roundtables and webinars with other like-minded individuals, including women in leadership roles. The practice also creates white papers and other resources to help give women a platform and spread their message further.
Not sure which recruitment firm you should partner with? We’ll help you make the right decision with our blogs: What to look out for when choosing your Microsoft Dynamics recruitment partner and What to look out for when choosing your Microsoft Azure recruitment partner.
Women have long been underrepresented in tech, and while we’re certainly seeing improvement in some areas, it’s key for businesses and individuals alike to recognize that diversity and inclusion efforts don’t have an end point—they require continuous power behind them to keep moving in the right direction.
If you’re struggling to know what your business can do next to get more women into the business and help to improve the overall diversity in the Microsoft ecosystem, taking our top five tips on board can help you to make a start.
You can also find plenty of helpful hiring advice on our blog, or if you’d prefer to speak to us directly, simply fill out the contact form and we’ll be in touch within 24 hours to discuss how we can help improve your diversity recruitment strategy.
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