In case you haven’t noticed, women in technology aren’t exactly a majority. Just take a look at the numbers: the women in STEM stats show that in the US 52% of the college-educated workforce are women, but when it comes to more technological roles, the workforce features only 29% women in science and engineering. It’s also not a pretty picture when it comes to education levels.
In the UK, women in tech statistics show that only 35% of STEM students in higher education are female.
But why? And how do we change it?
We spoke to three incredible industry talents to get their views, from a female IT star to a biotechnology expert and a top CEO in the crypto space. Here are their thoughts on how women impact tech and how to attract more women to STEM.
“We need to start getting little girls interested in STEM.”
Ambre Soubiran – CEO, Kaiko
“The gender inequality within STEM doesn’t start at company level, it starts at school level. I studied applied mathematics and computer science and in a year of 500 people, there were around 15 women. Over time that magnifies into a situation where if you’re trying to hire an engineer, a scientist or a mathematician, there will be more males than females. I don’t think that employers are looking to hire more white males in their 50s, it’s just that there are more white males in their 50s out there than women in science and engineering..
We need to start getting little girls interested in STEM. For me, you do that by encouraging their curiosity about life and how things work. There’s nothing more wonderful than science when you want to understand how the world around you works, right? Once you start asking those questions as a kid, it’s the rabbit hole: you just want to know more and more. If we can inspire girls to dig deeper to understand how things work, that’s how they will come to science and technology, and then we will start having more girls engaged in STEM..
The more women in tech you have, then the more female tech leaders you will have. And I really believe that benefits companies. For me, succeeding as a CEO involves not just building Kaiko into a large, internationally recognised, profitable company, but doing so while maintaining our extraordinary values. I think that’s more of a feminine approach to management – protecting people and values as much as profit. It’s not necessarily easy, but I think it’s a way that having female leaders is good for both society and the industry.”
“We need to make sure that we’re not underestimating women’s value”
Toyosi Odukoya – Head of Business Intelligence, Mastercard Foundation
“When I was younger, I wanted to study electrical and electronic engineering. Everyone told me, ‘This is not a course for females. You don’t have girls studying this subject. Maybe try computer science.’ Even my cousin, who was studying the course said it. So I ended up stepping down to the softer side of engineering.
Luckily I have no regrets – I’m glad I’m still in the tech space! – but that shows you how peoples’ comments can shape girls’ decisions. In Nigeria, where I’m from, there is a lot of bias about what a gender should study. Even in the workplace, I’ve been for job interviews where people have said: ‘I can’t employ you because you’re married.’ They’ve decided that you’re going to have kids. They just start planning your life for you. The discrimination is real.
It’s important for us to try to erase unconscious bias. We need to make sure that we’re not underestimating women’s value and that we make systems in STEM merit-based and deliberately inclusive. Women and girls need to know that this is a field where they will get recognition based on their ability and achievements. Only then can we have more women in technology, science and engineering.
I also think it’s very important that every organisation is intentional and deliberate in being gender diverse. I’d start with ensuring fair gender representation with the candidates for job interviews. If you have no female candidates on the shortlist, are you saying there are no women who could do that job? And if you had no-one apply, could you not headhunt a couple?
Where we’re able to do that successfully, we’ll have a STEM and tech space that will actually encourage women to join the field. Then, that approach also needs to be carried through to promotions, so that it leads to increased role models. I think that’s absolutely critical.” This is key to seeing progress in STEM female representation.