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True gender diversity in tech? Be flexible or fail

Marta Blazejewska, Director of Sales - STX Next

According to a recent report from McKinsey, jobs held by women were 1.8 times more vulnerable to Covid than those held by men. While women make up 39% of global employment, they account for 54% of overall job losses. This could severely hamper efforts to achieve gender diversity, particularly in the technology industry where women remain heavily under-represented. This is according to Marta Blazejewska, Director of Sales at STX Next.

Blazejewska said: “The reality is that when many countries went into lockdown and schools and nurseries closed, women were left juggling full-time employment with parenting and childcare. While developments in recent decades have allowed more women the opportunity to establish careers across any industry, the burden of childcare is still disproportionately placed on women.

“This is an area where many tech businesses failed to offer adequate support for women during the pandemic, and where efforts to make meaningful change should be focused.”

Below, Blazejewska outlines what steps tech businesses must take to address the gender divide in the industry.

Adjust targets in line with life, not work
Blazejewska said: “Pandemic aside, the tech industry has historically been weighted in favour of men. At present, just 19% of tech workers are women and 22% of tech directors are women.

“The first step in addressing this divide is assisting women in reaching a far healthier work-life balance. When the pandemic started, working mothers were left with less time to complete their work, yet in many cases, targets remained the same. It’s important to be flexible in this respect, which means adjusting targets, goals and expectations based on people’s practical capabilities, not just their skillset.”

The nine-to-five is dead
Blazejewska: “Many IT roles can be done flexibly and remotely with no impact on quality of work, so it’s about time we left the idea of the traditional working day in the past.

“Employees will often have to attend to their parental duties or other matters at hours of the day outside of your company’s control, especially if you have a hybrid working strategy. But hybrid working doesn’t just mean offering the opportunity to work from home; it means adapting to people’s lives.

“Embrace this by supporting women and giving them the opportunity to weave their parental responsibilities into their working day and jumping back online later to finish that project or task.”

Rethink recruitment
Blazejewska: “It’s important that gender equality becomes a business imperative, and this means adapting your recruitment processes. In the past, we’ve sought candidates from universities with a higher proportion of women on tech courses in order to promote a healthier gender balance.

“Where, for example, we’ve had a lower proportion of women applying for a role, we’ve also looked at focusing our efforts on offering candidates more junior roles with a view to training them for more senior leadership positions later down the line.

“There are also things that should be promised from the offset to support women in their careers. Start by offering more maternity support than your competitors, so women can start families with confidence.

“New mothers worry about returning to work, balancing their workload and resettling into a role after time away. Make this easier for them by staying in frequent contact at all stages of the maternity process and asking women how they can be better supported.”

Women are the leaders of today and tomorrow
Blazejewska: “This is all so important because the must-have skills for a manager have shifted in recent history. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, the most sought-after leadership traits, such as being compassionate, organised and honest, are often those that we more frequently associate with women.

“Further data from McKinsey has shown that female managers are better than males when providing emotional support to employees and are more likely to check in on colleagues’ wellbeing. Women are also better at helping employees navigating work-life challenges, which is something that has really come into focus since the start of the pandemic.”

Blazejewska concluded: “The above underlines the potential of women to make a major difference in the tech industry. Now it’s time for businesses to work harder to make tech a viable and rewarding career choice.”

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