Women wanted: The tech industry's quest for gender diversity via role models

Thursday, Kaspersky and Ada's List will host an online event looking at the evolution of women in technology and will ask "Where are we now?"

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Image: iStock/Viktoria Korobova

A mentor can be an invaluable resource when embarking on a career in technology. But a recent Kaspersky report revealed only 19% of women polled said they were encouraged by a female role model. 

The Kaspersky report, "Where are we now? Understanding the evolution of women in technology," will be among the topics discussed on Thursday in an online event co-hosted by Ada's List at 8 a.m. ET.

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The goal of the event, Kaspersky said, is to help celebrate International Women's Day on March 8 and hopes to empower and champion women in the tech industry or those considering joining the industry.

The participants in the online event will be:

  • Patricia Gestoso, Ph.D., a member of Ada's List and head of scientific customer support at BIOVIA and the 2020 Women in Software Changemakers Winner
  • Tim Campbell MBE, a small business advocate, youth talent ambassador and a passionate believer in the transformative power of education and commerce
  • Claire Hatcher, head of business development, Kaspersky Fraud Prevention. Claire has worked in cybersecurity for over 15 years, specializing in fraud prevention for the past decade. 
  • Anjali Ramachandran, moderator

There was once a time when it was common, and even accepted, to believe that girls were not as good at math as boys; this has now evolved into more than one-third (38%) of women in IT wary of entering the lucrative industry. A role model is critical, noted the report, in understanding the quest for gender diversity. 

In the tech world, women feel compelled to be autodidacts—nearly half of women (43%) found the job best suited to them through their own research. Another 33% of women felt encouraged to find a role in tech during their matriculation, at school, college or university. Kaspersky said these results show "early signs of change at the grassroots stage, but a current lack of female representation is still a key barrier to achieving a diverse workforce."

While positive steps to reverse gender stereotypes within IT have been implemented, in order to shake-up organizational structures and to shift attitudes, "there is only so much change that can be affected without more female representation," according to a Kaspersky press release. "If there aren't examples to follow, there isn't a clear path for young women to take them from education, through to the industry, and then into senior roles further along in their career."

During the height of the pandemic, technology was a stalwart industry, which continued to hire while other industries were shuttering. It's clearly a worth-it-to-pursue career, but college/university students looking to land on a major and job seekers need to be shown the skills and benefits of the sector. The best way to demonstrate this, Kaspersky found, is through role models in IT who can show young women this promising career; 44% of respondents earmarked problem-solving skills as a prime example, while 40% cited the potential for more substantive salaries.

The report noted the critical differences between 2019 and the current state of tech work. The pandemic sent 95% of women in tech to work from home, at least part time, since March 2020.

The research surveyed 13,000 men and women across 19 countries who work in the tech sector (1,000 respondents were from the United States) and 53% agreed that the number of women in senior IT roles increased in the past two years, conversely, though, only 10% of women in tech work in a female-majority team, compared to 48% working in a male majority team. 

Yet the report suggested that remote work demonstrated to women respondents an ability to have a good work-life balance and that it was strongly motivating in more women considering tech-related careers. Seven in 10 women stated that their skills and experience were considered more important than their gender during the interview process for their first IT or tech role, and 69% of women in tech said they were now more confident their opinion would be respected out of the gate, regardless of gender.

But 44% of women still believe that men move up in their organizations faster than their equally skilled female counterparts and 40% report being held back when pursuing career changes due to family or home pressures.  A similar number, 41%, said a more equal gender split would be beneficial to "general career progression."

Despite 34% of women who said they missed seeing colleagues in person, 31% still preferred the remote work dynamic, 46% believe the balance between men and women is assuaged working remotely and 58% of female respondents said telecommuting facilitates gender equality. Still, 47% of women said COVID-19 delayed their career progression, 48% found juggling home and work stressful (63% of women handle most of the homeschooling, compared to 53% of their male partners). 

Women, the Kaspersky report stressed, need more role models, because the majority of women haven't been encouraged to work in tech. Better marketing of IT's positive benefits directed toward women is also needed, 42% said.

"It's also important to highlight the advantages of a career in tech," Gestoso said. "Whilst tech careers are usually marketed by hard skills exclusively (maths, computers, logic), it's important to highlight that skills such as collaboration, communication, and customer skills are key to a variety of tech roles."

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Image: iStock/fizkes

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By N.F. Mendoza

N.F. Mendoza is a writer at TechRepublic and based in Los Angeles. She has a BA in Broadcast Journalism and Cinema Critical Studies and a Master's of Professional Writing, both from USC. Nadine has more than 20 years experience as a journalist coveri...