International Women’s Day: Women in Technology in 2024

Technology Magazine hears from thought leaders working to promote female talent in their respective companies and sectors

According to research conducted by Women in Tech, women still only account for around 26% of people working in IT today. Whilst this is an improvement from the figure of 19% in 2019, work is still needed to reach gender equality.

While progress is ongoing, the prevailing culture is beginning to change. As highlighted by Deloitte in recent research, “many large tech companies have made public commitments to improving gender diversity, including increasing women in their technical and leadership ranks.”

Highlighting the importance of these issues, International Women's Day – held each year on 8 March – is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women's equality.

IWD has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people. With the focus of this International Women’s Day is investing in women to create stronger economies, improve innovation, and ensure a better world for future generations, Technology Magazine hears from thought leaders working to promote female talent in their respective companies and sectors about what needs to be done to ensure real change within the industry.

The need to nurture talent and inspire inclusion

Businesses must take it upon themselves to nurture talent and hire a variety of people from different backgrounds. “As business leaders, it is our responsibility to inspire inclusion within our organisations,” emphasises Julie Kae, VP of Sustainability and DE&I at software company Qlik. “This is particularly pertinent as new technologies are developed. This speaks to a bigger ongoing issue of gender imbalance in technology, right from STEM education at school, and it is imperative that we do whatever we can to balance these numbers.”

Nurturing talent can come in the form of mentorship which Nicola Downing, CEO of imaging and electronics company Ricoh Europe, says is a powerful tool within the workplace. “Connecting junior colleagues with women in more senior positions at the outset of their careers provides them with inspiring role models to aspire to. These internal role models not only foster ambition but can offer valuable guidance, advice and support to other women navigating their careers.”

Meagen Eisenberg, CMO of cloud security company Lacework agrees. “Initiatives and networking events, like AWS Cloud Women, give leaders the chance to talk candidly about their journeys in the technology industry, and the challenges they’ve faced. This is an important step in helping reduce barriers, having honest conversations about the state of the industry and encouraging participation from the next generation.” 

“At G-P, I’ve witnessed firsthand the importance of democratising opportunities and empowering talent worldwide," states Leila Pourhashemi, CIO at employer of record software leader G-P,. "In a fiercely competitive international market – especially in smaller economies with limited available roles – the opportunity to work for a global company allows people to pursue a wider variety of career paths that might be more suited to them. For women in particular, it enables them to seek employment in markets that might provide better pay structures and progression opportunities without compromising personal life choices.”

Learning through effective training

To enable career progression, there must be access to training programmes to help women move up the career ladder. “According to our research, we found that even women on software teams, who think that AI technologies are important, are still less likely to be upskilling in AI than men,” highlights Dr Cat Hicks, VP of Research Insights at software company Pluralsight. “While there are probably multiple reasons for this, previous research suggests one important reason may be that women feel less supported in the workplace to take explicit time to learn and fear more harsh and unfair judgments from others.”

Lindsey Rowe, Head of Purpose Programmes & Sustainability GTM at SAP UK&I, notes that heading to university can be an invaluable experience, but it’s important to remember that this is not the only path for women and girls considering a career in STEM. “Many programmes, including our newly launched Apprenticeship Scheme, do not require a degree and instead offer the opportunity to gain hands-on, real-life experience within a range of disciplines in the technology industry.” 

Flexibility promoting work-life balance 

The changing world has had an impact too. The introduction of work-from-home policies means employees are no longer chained to a desk and can adjust their working hours. This has, in many ways, benefitted female employees. 

Fiz Yazdi, Head of Consulting UK at European consulting leader Sopra Steria, shares, “I’ve spent my whole career working part-time so I can manage a chronic health condition and have felt the positive impact flexible working has on my wellbeing and productivity, alongside the space and opportunities it creates for those around me. Leaders need to recognise the value of each team member, distributing responsibilities and encouraging a collaborative environment. Organisations that truly understand and respond positively to the issues women face, are also able to create an environment and culture where everyone can pursue their career aspirations and be successful.”

Showcasing a flexible company culture enables businesses to become more diverse with their workforce, which can lead to better business outcomes according to Brigette McInnis-Day, CPO at UiPath. “Providing women with greater opportunities to start and expand their careers is vitally important, particularly with skills shortages in fields like AI and regions worldwide where ageing populations are shrinking the workforce. We need to think and act differently.”

Breaking the glass ceiling 

International Women’s Day highlights the achievements of women, celebrating those who have broken the glass ceiling. Pam Maynard, CEO of professional services company Avanade, recalls experiences where she felt unheard in meetings and didn’t have the space to share ideas. “Thanks to the advocacy and allyship from my manager, I was able to carve out space to showcase my ideas, which ultimately set me on the path to where I am today. That experience shaped who I am as a leader, and I feel a deep responsibility to foster a culture of advocacy across my teams.”

Eduarda Camacho, COO of information security company CyberArk, echoes this sentiment, saying, “In my first interview to work for a US tech company I was told that - although my experience was great - being a foreign woman without a background in engineering would limit my potential. However, I was determined to push back against those stereotypes to ensure they wouldn’t hinder my success.”

Cybersecurity industry faces a lack of representation

As explained by Cristina Gonzalez Pitarch, Managing Director EMEA at Google Cloud Security, a lack of representation can make it difficult for women to envision themselves in technology roles. “In the UK, women make up only 17% of the total cyber sector workforce, and a lack of representation can make it more difficult for women to envision themselves in these roles. And this starts at a young age, with less girls encouraged to study computer science or IT subjects. However, cybersecurity doesn’t only require technical profiles. 

"It’s really easy to think of cybersecurity as taking place in a dark room with a lot of men in hoodies hunched over laptops. But the industry is still a relatively new sector and there is so much opportunity and areas of growth that need different skills and perspectives. 

"My background isn’t technical, for example. I’m actually trained in law, but I’ve found that my skill set has enabled me to approach things with a fresh perspective and see problems or solutions that maybe my peers might have missed. Cybersecurity is a growing sector, and there’s a demand for all kinds of people. We need to encourage more women from different backgrounds to explore and pursue careers in cybersecurity, because their unique perspectives can significantly contribute to building a more secure and resilient future for everyone."

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