Are men afraid to sponsor women to succeed in the tech world?

NFTs, I kept seeing this acronym and, as an educator of many years standing, I felt it was my duty to understand this newish term in blockchain terminology. So, I watched a highly informative rap video on YouTube. It was circulated on the WhatsApp group, the Bigger Pie.

In reviewing the threads in this group time and time again, the lack of diversity and inclusion in the blockchain and technology world was discussed. The invisibility of women and the treatment of women often mentioned.

So even if women manage to break through and work in tech that is not the end of the story. This is not new – it is a recurring theme. Where are the male sponsors, allies and advocates?

So, let us look at the initial barriers and then some solutions.

The world of education is often behind the curve. There is a lack of understanding of the realities of emerging technologies both in terms of curriculum and careers.

I coach and mentor senior leaders and managers. A particular focus is working with those in education. I have developed Medacrii Associates with a few experienced education and business professionals to join the dots, connect the networks and make education come alive throughout work. More of this is needed. When did you last offer some up-to-date insight into the world of technology and its fascinating careers to girls and young women?

Keep learning

Working in education for much of my adult life has taught me several things, crucially you just must keep learning. However, when I mention that I have been learning about blockchain, digital ledger technology and cryptocurrency through Cointelligence Academy, the Crypto Insider and women in blockchain groups, there is a total lack of comprehension. If I go on to share information on the emerging job roles, with technology being one of the fastest growing areas for jobs, I draw a blank.

“We need to prepare our students for the real world of work,” Is a consistent mantra across colleges. My response – ‘where do you think the growth area for jobs is? What are you doing to connect with the industry through start-ups, entrepreneurs and employers? Have you looked at routes into tech through the existing curriculum, apprenticeships and Higher Education?’

Technical levels are coming – there must be an opportunity there in the digital qualification? Education needs help. There are some excellent STEM projects such as Academy Achievers developed by Paulette Watson. Projects like these are connecting girls and young women with future employment opportunities providing inspiration and aspiration.

If you research statistics linked to tech you discover lack of tech know how costs the UK £63bn a year, there are 600,000 job vacancies in digital.

Only three per cent of females say a career in technology is their first choice, 78 per cent of students cannot name a famous female working in tech, 16 per cent of females have had a career in tech suggested to them but 33 per cent of males have, five per cent of leadership positions in the technology sector are held by women and two per cent of female students surveyed say they would consider a career in tech compared to 61 percent of males. PwC research 2017.

Since then, we have had a pandemic and nothing is likely to have changed if anything got worse.

What is going on?

If the hypothesis is that the technology world is dominated by men why might that be?

Gender diversity

Only 15 per cent of people working in STEM roles are female, there is some gender diversity but it is often hidden by the job roles linked to marketing, HR and so on.

The gender imbalance starts in schools and continues through life. Girls are less likely to study the subjects that link to technology – Maths, Chemistry and Physics. This is replicated at university level. Proportionately more male students study STEM related degrees.

What are the reasons? Girls have consistently reinforced messages about which subjects to study, what is more interesting, what is relevant for their futures together with teachers not making STEM appealing and what will get them the highest grades.

This is coupled with too little advice on what a career in STEM involves, STEM is male dominated and not reactive enough. A lack of good quality careers advice is reinforcing the problem.

If women do manage to acquire STEM related qualifications, skills and experience there are another set of hurdles to overcome. Recruitment practices may implicitly and explicitly exclude women through the construction of gendered job descriptions and person specifications with language that excludes instead of including. The pool that employers are fishing in, by default, is a smaller one for women but nonetheless a quality one. Qualifications and skills are not the be all and end all

“You don’t hire for skills, you hire for attitude. You can always teach skills,” – Simon Sinek.

Research from Harvard shows that adding women to the mix increases IQ of the whole team and the bottom line. So why wouldn’t you?

I recently undertook to develop an inclusive recruitment strategy project for a large organisation. Among a range of recommendations for inclusive diversity recruitment practices was the use of software that supports gender neutrality both in tone and language. A great use of technology. If diversity is being invited to the dance and inclusion is being asked to dance, then inclusive diversity is the game changer in recruitment.

Micro aggressions

I recently heard of a case where a group of male investors consistently undermined the appointed directors in a technology start-up. The micro aggressions, the discriminatory language and the demeaning behaviours led to a parting of the ways.

I have pondered with one of the women (who were called girls) whether the breakdown and subsequent severance of the relationship would have happened had they been men.

This is not a unique situation I am coaching and mentoring women who are being damaged everyday by the behaviour and harassment of male managers and colleagues. Even though organisations are jumping on the bandwagon of equality, diversity and inclusion through appointing to roles, on many occasions it is little more than box ticking.

Even those companies that use amazing tools like All of Us – an equality and diversity social media platform as an integral part of their commitment, are not truly educating and changing till we see inclusive diversity as the game changer and the data in staffing supports it.

Are men afraid to appoint and work with competent women? Look at FTSE 100 leadership and boards. The glass ceiling abounds.

Medacrii Associates are a group of experienced educators with backgrounds in business, finance, HR, tech start-ups, Further and higher, primary and secondary education. Not afraid to challenge the status quo with organisations and deliver bespoke equality, diversity, inclusion and anti-racism training with or without coaching and mentoring.

So, what are you afraid of? Why not consider being a sponsor, ally or advocate to those great women you know and girls who deserve to have their potential realised. Inclusive diversity brings benefits you can only dream of… it is a game changer for the world of technology.

Dr Maxine Room CBE

Medacrii Associates Ltd