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International Women's Day: The state of play for women in tech

A lack of women in senior roles is still one of the major issues facing the technology industry today, with reports still highlighting the glass ceiling that women are often faced with.

This is despite the rise in publicity following efforts from the likes of Apple and Facebook to address the issue. To celebrate International Women's Day, several industry professionals have offered their opinions on the current state of play for women in the technology sector.

Rachel Lane, Director & Practice Lead of Customer Analytics, EMEA, at Verint

"Being a woman working in a traditionally male dominated sector certainly has its challenges. But as a gender, we are making progress in the workplace. A recent government backed report from Mervyn Davies shows 25 per cent of FTSE 100 board members are now women. As more women hold these high powered positions, the closer we become to establishing a new normal in the workplace. At the same time we provide young women with even more role models and mentors to aspire to be like – ultimately creating better opportunities for the next generation.

"But realistically, this shouldn’t be an issue we have to discuss in 2016. The Mervyn Davies report urges businesses to keep increasing the number of women in their organisations, imploring FTSE 100 boards to rise to 33 per cent women. While necessary, reports and quotas like this shouldn’t have to exist.

"Diversity is integral to business success, and businesses should want to hire female talent. According to a study by The Peterson Institute for International Economics, companies with female leaders make more profit, demonstrating just how much businesses could be missing out on by not encouraging gender diversity in their workplace. With diversity comes a wider range of competencies, perspectives and approaches to tasks. Businesses very rarely have a consumer base formed of just one single demographic, so to truly understand the customers your business relies on, diversity is key."

Shellye Archambeau, CEO of MetricStream

"As technology continues to infiltrate all aspects of our lives, there has never been a better time to join the industry. Yet, the industry is still blighted by a lack of gender diversity and a bewildering gender pay gap. The number of women who believe they could have a long and rewarding career in the tech industry is worrying low and, in some cases, is actually falling.

"A study from the Association of University Women found that only 26 per cent of computing jobs in the U.S. are held by women, down from 35 per cent in 1990. While the likes of Sheryl Sandberg, Ginni Rometty and Ursula Burns are changing the “techies” stereotype, and are proof that women can make it to the very top, more needs to be done to encourage women into the field. After all, gender diversity breeds innovation; it ensures different perspectives to problems, which can only enrich the quality of solutions being provided.

"Issues regarding gender don’t stop at a lack of diversity. We continue to see the wider business community rightly criticised for how female employees are treated and financially compensated compared to their male counterparts. In this day and age, people should be paid the same for doing the same job, irrespective of gender or race. It may sound simple, and should be, but IWD’s #PLEDGEFORPARITY campaign is a clear indication that we’re still a long way off."

Lynn Collier, COO UK&I, Hitachi Data Systems

“We can’t just leave it to the government and education systems to stand up for women in technology. Businesses also need to ensure that they’re holding their hands up and taking responsibility – especially if they want to enjoy the business benefits that accompany gender diversity.

"Mandatory quotas are often cited as a solution, but I firmly believe that this quick-fix should be avoided. If you start enforcing mandatory quotas, you undermine the very fabric of what we’re trying to achieve: the right people, with the right skills, in the right jobs – whom can go onto develop their careers in exactly the way they want to.

"It’s not just about broadcasting the views of women at the top of the industry (which we’re already so good at doing). These roles may not appeal or be realistic to every potential applicant, so we need to start looking at how to showcase female spokespeople from every level in business to truly demonstrate the variety of opportunities available in the industry for women to challenge themselves in different ways.”

Monica Beltrametti, Chief Services Research Officer, Xerox

“It’s unfortunately still too rare to see women in top roles in any sector; not just hi-tech. We must admit that the needle is shifting - albeit not as fast as we would like it to. We have some examples of women CEOs at major tech companies and there are a growing number of senior women executives in technical roles.

As science and technology play an increasingly important part in our lives and will determine our future it is essential that government, industry, education and all parents take it upon themselves to make it accessible and attractive to our youth and in particular to girls. It’s only then that we will see real tangible and sustainable change in the numbers of women leaders.”

Heidi Yli-Ojanpera, Principal Consultant, Market Gravity

"There’s some great female talent coming into the innovation and tech industry at graduate level and also managers, coming in from other types of consultancy companies. However, many of the more senior positions tend to be occupied by males as females either drop out of their careers or do not continue in this profession. It’s a shame that these talented women do not make it to the more senior positions but a lot can be done to support women and help them get to the top, as well as encouraging younger females to consider this sector for their career path.

"It would be interesting to see how opinions shift over the coming years, especially among younger generations, and the new national computing curriculum is certainly expected to bring excitement and enthusiasm to school children and young people.

"We need better collaboration between businesses, schools and educators, and parents too, to encourage more diversity in workplaces and to quash some of the myths about stereotypes. It’s important to focus on the next generation to ensure a level playing field for their career aspirations."

Siân John, Chief Strategist for EMEA at Symantec

"There's great potential for females looking to launch a career in the cyber security industry. I joined Symantec in 2005, after a senior consultancy role with CyberTrust, and it's safe to say that no two days have been the same since. My role at Symantec includes providing guidance around the world's latest security threats, breaches and issues to our customers and the UK and European media."

"My experience ranges from working as a security architect, an independent security consultant and to project execution at Houses of Parliament and Reuters. I've evolved my skill sets since day one of my career in the cybersecurity industry.

"Although women are under-represented in the industry, there are many talented female cyber security professionals out there waiting to be found. And International Women's Day is the perfect time to highlight our broad diversity of talents."

Image source: Shutterstock/Sergey Nivens