International Women's Day - How can the tech industry close the gender gap?

Three key staff members from our global offices discuss how the technology industry can do more to balance the gender representation.

Despite continued progress, the technology industry remains male dominated. How can this change? We spoke to three of our key women across our European, North American and Latin American regions.

From North America, our key Senior Project Manager Rachelle Shackelford, London based Culture and Wellbeing Manager Margaret Solomon who has been with FSB for nearly a decade and Colombia's Isabel Madrigal who plays a major role in our Agile project management. At FSB, we're looking to close the gender gap in technology via our partnership with Rubik Talent and have a zero tolerance policy towards sexism, discrimination and harassment.

1/ Just 34% of employees working in the technology industry in North America are female, in the UK it's just 23%. Why do you think the number is so low?

Rachelle Shackelford, Senior Project Manager, North America: I think largely, the missed target is exposure to opportunity for young women. Many decisions on what we pursue through higher education and ultimately, our career paths are made at such a young age. I don’t recall once considering technology as an option at that time. Fortunately, I found myself here anyways. What I came to find once I got here is that the technology industry is very inclusive with ethnical, racial, and spiritually diverse individuals. Even though tech is often still portrayed as a “boy’s club," I’ve never felt that my voice wasn’t heard because I was female. My experience has been quite the opposite; as I do feel like this industry is where my voice has been heard the loudest and therefore, my impact has been the most substantial.

Margaret Solomon, Culture and Wellbeing Manager, Europe: I think there is a lack of role models for women in the sector and this is maybe down to gender stereotyping that boys are better and more interested in science and maths which is not true. Also, women tend to be more sociable and working in some tech roles can be quite insular.

Isabel Madrigal, Agile Project Manager, Latin America: When examining the causes of under-representation of women in the workplace I think there are three main causes worth mentioning. One is the salary gap that unfortunately we can still see in the industry. Women having the same position as a male co-worker and having lower salaries is not a phenomenon unique to the tech industry, however it is still worth mentioning. The second cause worth mentioning is flexibility; even though we have seen with the pandemic that now there are more work-from-home jobs being offered, this was not the case before, or was not the case for all companies, leading to women having to choose between being a mom or developing their careers. Finally, the fact that the space is so male-dominated can lead in some cases to undesirable workplace conditions including discrimination, or even harassment. The existence of discrimination and harassment that is sometimes prevalent in certain tech companies serves as a deterrent for females to even seek careers in this industry.

2/ What can be done in the years ahead to improve this number?

Rachelle: As we continue to promote the inclusion of women in the industry, I think it’s important to challenge young women to consider higher education in technology related fields, as well as promote growth from entry-level positions for individuals who start there. I believe that as we see more skilled women in the technology resource pool, we will see more lead and management roles filled by women. As leadership becomes more gender-diverse, women may feel more empowered to join markets in similar positions as tech. Additionally, by allowing for more flexible working environments via remote, hybrid-remote, and flexible working hours, we can add significant value to women with obligations for home-life duties that may have prevented them from seeking these opportunities previously. The ability to do so has been around for a long time, but recent global changes have paved the way for wider acceptance of these working models. As we collectively continue to fight the good fight of equality and inclusion, I can only see growth in women's engagement and empowerment in tech.

Margaret: I think it's important to recognise and acknowledge the gender imbalance in the workforce and then look to address it. At FSB, we've teamed up with Rubik Talent to give graduates from under-represented backgrounds a path into our workplace and the technology industry. I also think it's really important that genders shouldn't be pigeon holed into certain careers.

Isabel: It’s important to have values and incentives that motivate employees equally. When the employees understand and take those values seriously, the processes in which the company might be failing women will be able to be evaluated and changed over time.

3/ Do you have any inspiring female role models in the tech industry or in other industries?

Rachelle: I’ve found that my inspirations often come from female leads in rock music. There’s something about an uncompromisingly talented female artist that instantly has my respect. My cassettes were usually running a variation between the B52’s, Blondie, and Pat Benatar while growing up. Over the ages, I’ve continuously felt the same level of excitement when I would hear new talented women rock artists absolutely crushing it. I’ve always believed that if they can make noise in their field, then there’s no reason myself and other women can’t in ours.

Margaret: When I was starting out in my career I worked for a Unilever company and had a female boss who had a senior role. She was bright, ambitious and kind which I think goes along way.  She made a mark on me and I've always tried to follow her approach when managing and dealing with people.

Isabel: I admire many women, a few examples are Ellen Pao (one of the creators of Project Include), Reshma Saujani (Founder of Girls Who Code), Rihanna, Serena Williams, Greta Thunberg, and others.