Gender & Tech – Why Everything Is Changing Right Now
by Victoria Greene. Image credit: Pexels
It’s 2018, and women around the world are beginning to gain the rights and freedoms that men have had since time immemorial. But there is still progress to be made, not least in our very own tech industry.
Thankfully, prominent voices and organizations are already doing great work to inspire and empower more women in tech. Read on to discover why everything is changing right now…
The influence of Sheryl Sandberg
One of the most prominent and successful businesswomen in the industry right now (and perhaps even in the world) is of course Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook. For the last decade, Sandberg has been second-in-command at what has become one of the world’s biggest and most powerful organizations.
Alongside her hugely-successful career at Facebook, which has seen her revolutionize its business strategy and transform the company finances, Sandberg has also been a prominent voice for female leadership. Her book “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead” was published in 2013, and Sandberg has since become a voice for empowering women in following their own professional goals.
However you feel about the ascent of Facebook to its position as one of the world’s biggest corporate giants, it’s undeniable that the corresponding rise of Sandberg’s has provided an inspirational role model for many aspiring female leaders in the tech industry and beyond.
The #MeToo movement
#MeToo has become a global movement representing the unheard voices of people who have experienced sexual abuse or violence.
With social media highlighting a new story nearly every day, and high-profile cases such as Brett Kavanaugh being closely followed by the international media, the #MeToo tidal wave is not abating.
And rightly so. It provides a supportive community and helps people speak up across the world, with more and more women from different industries coming forward to highlight problems.
Tech, unfortunately, has its fair share of problems here: take the sexual harassment blogged about at Uber, for example. But by providing a platform for these terrible practices to come to light, #MeToo is heralding major change.
The efforts of Melinda Gates
Often mentioned alongside her husband Bill Gates, Melinda Gates is a prominent and hugely-successful businesswoman in her own right, and continues to provide a key voice for females in the tech industry.
Just last month, Gates published a new article highlighting this very issue of gender & tech, asserting that it’s time to act on closing this gender bias in tech (and beyond).
Her company carried out a research project involving over 30 tech companies and 100 professionals, and has come away with numerous actionable insights. One initiative to emerge is the launch of Reboot Representation Tech Coalition, designed to close the gender gap for women of color in tech by 2025.
It’s empowering to see a strong woman such as Melinda Gates using her enormous wealth and influence for good, recognizing that the gender & tech bias is a serious problem and must be addressed.
Progress in the UK & Europe
The problems surrounding gender bias within tech are not restricted to the US and Silicon Valley. In fact, prominent voices from across the world have been making points and telling their stories, including this UK-based writer who was glad to see Girls In Tech re-open their London branch in 2017.
The UK also has a successful STEM program, encouraging women to pursue and thrive in science, tech, engineering and mathematics careers.
Europe also has many pockets of success when it comes to gender & tech. And while it recognizes the need to keep doing more, it’s really leading the way for change — there are already conferences across Europe specifically for women in tech.
Eastern Europe is becoming particularly well-known for its female tech entrepreneurs. Despite being the poorest country of all 28 member states, Bulgaria has Europe’s highest percentage of women working in IT.
Support from Female Founder Office Hours
For tech companies to succeed, they typically require funding. That funding usually comes from external sources, including VCs and business angels — but stats show that only a shocking 15% of funding goes to female entrepreneurs.
Successful female founders and female VCs have come together to try and change this imbalance. The organization Female Founder Office Hours is a great example of one such group: it comprises over 120 female founders and 30+ VCs who have raised $4bn in VC funding and have $50bn of assets under management.
Some impressive figures, but even more impressive is the work they are doing in offering practical advice and setting up a ‘pay-it-forward’ mentoring scheme. Female Founder Office Hours say they’re here to change the gender bias in tech investment, and they are using their influence to make great strides already.
Education from Girls Who Code
With female VCs at the top of the financial chain, at the bottom are the non-profits who aim to work directly to encourage young girls into tech.
Girls Who Code is one fantastic organization doing just this. Since its creation in 2012, it has provided free summer programs and after-school clubs for girls, encouraging them to consider the possibility of working in the tech industry.
With programs covering most of the US, Hawaii and even Alaska, Girls Who Code is an organization that ultimately aims to support and increase the number of women in computer science.
This is one to watch — Girls Who Code is creative with its outreach, and has just dropped a new digital-visual album to celebrate what it calls ‘modern Sisterh>>d’. Released on International Women’s Day, it was designed to inspire young women to stand up and speak out about gender imbalances across the world.
Lowered barriers for entrepreneurs
We’ve looked at the ways in which women can find funding to enter the tech world, but the beauty of the business world today is that you don’t necessarily need any support to get involved in tech.
You can learn so much — and achieve so much — with nothing more than a laptop and an internet connection. It’s even possible for a woman with an existing career to find ways to expand her skills and move into tech without having to sacrifice stability.
There are so many superb online courses open to anyone (some for free), online businesses from all industries for sale to give a jump-start to anyone who wants to learn about ecommerce or simply learn how to manage time, plenty of software development communities full of experts willing to help out anyone willing to put in the work, and — of course — plenty of great resources for startups.
Whatever you want to achieve, the technology is now available to go for it, the support is there, and the resources are within reach. All that matters is your level of determination.
Passionate people spreading the word
Finally — it’s comforting to know there are so many ordinary people out there working to close the gap on gender differences in tech. There are so many passionate advocates spreading the word, and a lot of solid research being done into the issues.
From media articles and academic research papers to personal blogs, there’s so much to be found. This website is a great resource, linking to more examples about how gender & tech is changing right now than we could possibly include in a single article. If you ever need to be reassured that things are changing, take a look.
While there’s always more progress to be made, it’s clear that the balance is starting to tip when it comes to gender & tech. With the above prominent voices and organizations already speaking up and helping to implement societal change, it’s a matter of time before the gap closes even further and the benefits of a more diverse workforce are universally recognised.
Victoria Greene is an ecommerce marketing expert and freelance writer who is inspired by progress in the tech world. You can read more of her work at her blog Victoria Ecommerce.