Lucy Davies (@LucyDesaDavies) describes a bleak picture for women in technology.
After a Bank Holiday weekend packed with female empowerment - which started with seeing Queen Bey at the O2 and finished with reading the final chapters of Sheryl Sandberg's guide to leadership, 'Lean In' - it seemed only fitting to dedicate this month's post to women in technology.
Even at a time when there are more women in leadership roles at some of the world's largest technology companies - think HP, Yahoo, IBM, Xerox, Oracle, and Facebook - who are setting the agenda and doing things differently, a bleak picture continues to be painted for womankind.
A recent report by Cranfield School of Management highlighted that the number of women appointed to boards at FTSE 100 organisations dropped from 44% to 26% in the past six months alone. Labour MP and former shadow minister for innovation, Chi Onwurah, recently warned that Britain's technology sector was missing out on the vital input of women as the number of females enrolling in IT courses has not changed for the past 30 years; between 2001 and 2011 the percentage of technology jobs held by women declined from 22% to 17%. Lack of female representation in the industry was also a key talking point during InfoSec 2013, with e-skills UK releasing data on how the cyber security sector is failing to attract female talent, with only 10% of those who hold non-commercial positions being women.
The issue over diversity has long been disputed, with many solutions to change this reality focusing on shaking-up the current education system to encourage more girls to study STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) at a higher education level, or forcing change at a leadership level with the European Commission's proposed legislation which aims to attain a 40% objective by 2020 of women in non-executive board-member positions in publicly listed companies. Unofficially, female leaders have also used their position to serve as role models for future generations, sharing experiences and lessons learned to help others.
Collectively, these efforts are undoubtedly helping. Sandberg firmly believes, however, that focusing on keeping women in the workforce is the main issue that needs to be addressed and her message is being heard loud and clear. Just last week billionaire investor Warren Buffett asserted that the key to America's future success lies in helping women achieve as much as their male counterparts and, "the closer that America comes to fully employing the talents of all its citizens, the greater its output of goods and services will be."
For the enterprise technology industry specifically greater communication needs to be done both internally and externally to recruit and retain the best talent. The cultures of many Silicon Valley start-ups are the envy of many organisations, and if efforts were focused on creating an environment that delivers opportunity, invests in leadership development, and nurtures a supportive working culture where the business invests in both a person's professional and personal life, the greater the chances of creating a workplace where women thrive.
Sandberg rightly affirms that she looks forward to a time when people aren't labelled by gender - "When people talk about a female pilot, a female engineer, or a female race car driver, the word "female" implies a bit of a surprise. Men in the professional world are rarely seen through this same gender lens. A Google search for "Facebook's male CEO" returns this message: "No results found." I also look forward to that time when the word "first" is dropped from those utterances.
Lucy Davies is an Account Director working within the core enterprise B2B team in the Technology practice at Edelman, London. Lucy drives strategic media and influencer engagement programmes for global B2B brands, and has worked at Edelman for 5 years.
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