Women and Tech
The technology sector is no doubt going from strength to strength, and I’m excited to be a part of it. From producing the world’s first telephone 140 years ago to now powering the world with cutting edge technology like 5G, constant innovation is a given in ICT. Yet, as we witness so much change, there is one constant: women remain underrepresented in this field.
Despite the increasing demand for ICT related skills in the EU and the estimated 16 billion GDP economic boost that an increased female workforce would provide, men considerably outnumber women in tech. With women equating for just 34 percent of European STEM graduates and only 17 percent of European ICT specialists, the tech industry has one of the largest gender-gaps in Europe.
But that comes as no surprise. Whilst a career in technology is incredibly rewarding, it can be tough sometimes. Achieving a work/life balance is difficult in any sector, and even harder still, if you’re taking time to care for children or loved ones. In all honesty, juggling two children and a jam-packed agenda can be challenging, especially as my job involves frequent traveling and long hours.
Could this be one of the reasons why less women get involved with tech? Whilst gender roles are less rigid than they were, the reality is, women are still the primary caregivers for children and relatives. They are also far more likely to take career breaks or cut back on their working hours to provide care. In 2018, for instance, 33 percent of employed European women had a work interruption for childcare reasons compared with just 1.3 percent of men.
The impact of the pandemic
Some reports have suggested that women in tech are set to feel the effects of COVID-19 on employment and recruitment far heavier than men. But instead of allowing women to feel the brunt of job insecurity, we should be supporting them more than ever.
We can’t deny that the pandemic has changed the way we work and how we manage our day-to-day lives. Suddenly, remote working and traveling less has become the ‘new normal’ and the efficiency of working in this remote environment has been thrust into the spotlight.
With a shift towards remote and flexible working already taking place long before the pandemic, many employers have now come to recognize that individuals can work well even with a less conventional working routine. For me, working from home means greater flexibility to care for my family and lead a fulfilling career, and I’m not the only woman to breathe a sigh of relief.
A window of opportunity?
Yet could the wider acceptance and adoption of remote working get more women to build a career in technology? Whilst it doesn’t eradicate the barriers between women and the sector, it might be, at the very least, a step in the right direction. For women previously struggling to access more senior roles in ICT due to commitments at home, perhaps greater working flexibility could be exactly what they need.
Technology enables change, and with change comes opportunities. We’ve seen everything from 5G powered driverless vehicles in Sweden with Telia to remote COVID-19 health monitoring in Russia – in the last month alone. But who knows what further innovation could be driven by more women entering the sector? With such exciting prospects for the future, there’s been no greater time to get involved with technology, and at Ericsson we’re proud ambassadors of driving diversity and inclusion.
The world of tech cannot afford to miss out on the female perspective, and I’m hopeful that the barriers imposed by lockdown might enable more women to enter and build careers in ICT. Everyone possesses a unique outlook on life, each bringing different values and ideas to the table, which has huge potential for making a real difference in the sector.