Breaking the tech ceiling: Encouraging more women into the technology industry

| minute read

Nearly three million people are employed within the UK tech industry, but just 26% of those are women, according to government-funded growth Network Tech Nation. In leadership positions only 3% of the Chief Technology Officers (CTO’s) or Technical Director roles in the UK are held by women (according to a 2022 TechNation report).

The global gender gap in various industries, technology included, is not expected to close until 2120. This proves that there needs to be a greater effort made to encourage women into the workspace and into visible leadership roles.

There are various deep-rooted barriers that need to be overcome in the quest for gender diversity in the technology industry. Championing successful women within STEM is key to prove to women and girls that they can have fulfilling careers with the industry.

Female role models in the tech industry

Sue-Ellen Wright, Managing Director of our Aerospace, Defence and Security business recently joined Kayleigh Bateman on the SheCanCode podcast to talk about female role models in the tech industry and how to encourage more women into the industry.

Sue-Ellen’s career spans more than 30 years, she currently sits on the Sopra Steria UK board and is an executive sponsor for wellbeing and for our Women’s Inclusive Network.

“The benefits of having a diverse workforce are clear, yet an equal gender balance is still not being achieved in many industries – especially tech and engineering. This is despite an increased focus on encouraging girls to study STEM subjects at school” Sue-Ellen explains.

When thinking about why there are less women in tech roles Sue-Ellen explains that with 77% of tech director roles in the UK being filled by men, there are a not a lot of role models for women aspiring to work in the industry. Research from Cranfield University has shown that within the FTSE100 there are not enough female Chairs, Chief Executives, and Chief Financial Officers.

Having clear, accessible role models is important to encourage women into the industry, and seeing someone who you relate to is a powerful source of inspiration and motivation. Championing women already in leadership positions can provide others with these role models, which can demystify senior positions and inspire both current and future generations.

Increasing the number of women in the tech industry

Diversity brings different perspectives and ideas to the table, which can lead to more innovative and creative solutions. There’s an increased understanding of this importance, but less understanding about how we can achieve it.

Biases begin from an early age and continue through to higher education. As a result, less women choose STEM subjects to study, only 17% of computer science applicants in 2021 were women, and 26% of graduates studying core STEM subjects were women at UK universities in 2019. Providing women with the resources and support from an early age can help break down barriers and show them that they have a place in the industry.

When thinking about gender diversity within tech teams, Sue-Ellen said “Organisations should implement specific measures to improve gender diversity within their teams and there are so many things we can do. For example, giving women employees not currently in STEM roles the opportunity to gain insights into other roles, through shadowing and retraining programmes. These programmes allow women to better understand the responsibilities of those working in tech and may pique their interest in applying for a technology position. Creating networks, providing mentoring programmes, identifying male allies, and simply leading by example can all also help.”

It's important that women don’t feel like they’re just there as a step towards achieving gender equality and should play a pivotal role within the industry.

Outdated assumptions around child-rearing and caregiver responsibilities, mean that women are often bypassed for promotions and new roles. For businesses trying to attract more women into the technology industry it’s important to ensure the language within job descriptions is inclusive. It's also about having the right policies in place and creating a work environment where all employees are enabled to thrive, no matter their individual needs.

By supporting women in the workplace and attracting diverse talent across all levels, businesses can not only mitigate against the growing gender gap but also benefit from more women staying in the workplace, retaining great talent.

Listen to the SheCanCode podcast featuring Sue-Ellen here.

More about Sue-Ellen Wright

Read more about some of the women working within tech at Sopra Steria