Women in Fintech: Troubleshooting the Gender Gap
Women in Fintech: Troubleshooting the Gender Gap
I have always had a passion for technology. I love that with some logical thinking, a little troubleshooting and a bit of trial and error, (nearly) every IT problem can be solved. Of course, solving the problem often involves some long hours sat in front of a computer but the satisfaction of finding a solution makes it worth the effort. Completing my first university project was when I realised just how much I would love working in IT. After making a few final code changes, the entire project crashed resulting in an entire day spent in the computer lab trying to fix it, and despite the help of friends and lecturers a solution seemed impossible. Finally, many hours later, I noticed a capital ‘P’ should have been a small ‘p’. This simple change saved the project and the satisfaction of fixing the code solidified my love for technology.
So why aren’t more women out there troubleshooting their own code and what exactly is it that holds women back from technology and IT-related roles?
It’s no secret that most, if not all, technology companies are male dominated and despite a massive push from many organisations (and initiatives such as Women Who Code and TechWomen) to get women into technology, over 75% of employees at most technology companies are still male. Girls are scoring better than their male counterparts in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects, right across the board, and yet despite this, only 26% of girls are choosing careers in technology. The numbers just don’t add up.
The gender barrier in technology has become a much-discussed topic and on the back of recent research in the U.S., I expect that to continue. The research contends that, by 2020, there will be 1.4 million computer science jobs available in the US; while this is great news for the economy, it leaves you wondering exactly how many of these roles will be filled by women? And if, as a result of this gender gap, it will be possible to fill these jobs at all? The same is true in the U.K; 100,000 new STEM graduates will be needed every year until 2020 just to maintain current employment numbers.
Much like the bug in my code, it’s very clear there is a problem and that problem requires some troubleshooting; barriers exist and these require urgent attention in order to combat the gender divide. From my perspective, three key issues stand out:
1. Both men and women believe the industry to be sexist.
According to a recent survey by the Guardian, 73% of people believe the tech industry is sexist. Socially accepted ‘norms’ mean that women remain under-represented.
2. Feeling like an outsider
3. Lack of mentorship / senior role models
With more women leaving the industry than staying, it makes having senior role models difficult.
While some, if not all, of these barriers will most likely affect women when it comes to deciding their career path, the key fact to consider is that there is ZERO evidence to suggest that women are unsuited to a career in IT.
This means that it is down to the tech companies to do everything they can to attract and retain female talent and provide a culture that is attractive to female employees. Simply put, address the socially accepted hiring norms that ensure women remain under represented in the workplace (see 1 above) and in turn you address issues of culture and peer mentorship (see 2 and 3 above).
Over the past 6 to 12 months, Options has done exactly that, with female hires in Belfast, for instance, accounting for over 50% of the total workforce. By doing this, the team has diversified; the support network for female staff has grown beyond a previously male dominated group to one that’s much more varied. This approach to hiring provides female employees with more confidence, assurances that they enjoy the same opportunities as their male colleagues and it allows them to enjoy and contribute to a culture that they feel a part of.
While the industry is changing, much more still needs to be done. There is a plethora of information available that demonstrates the tangible benefit of having more females in our tech companies. By publicising this and by having great female leaders such as Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) and Virginia “Ginni” Rometty (CEO of IBM) in the industry, there is a huge opportunity for further change. Companies should also be partnering with organisations that champion women in technology such as Women Who Code and Tech Women. Research has shown that women progress better by having a mentor within the industry and this could be one way to provide that option.
The industry must continue to support female growth and development and celebrate their successes so that no further untapped female talent is wasted. In other words, we’ve found the bug, now we just need to fix it.
Technical Services, Options.
P.S. To apply to Options’ graduate and placement scheme, click here.