There is a higher proportion of women in Parliament than in British tech. None of the world’s biggest technology companies were founded by women. Only a tiny majority of the investors funding the sector in the UK and the US are women. And an even smaller percentage of the coders, software developers and product managers in the industry are women.
Gender inequality. It’s the ugly truth undermining the progress of British technology. Anyone who claims that tech, the UK’s fastest growing sector, doesn’t have a diversity problem is either delusional or lying.
Why is this so? Is it true that women can’t teach themselves to code? Is it true that the gung-ho entrepreneurial mentality doesn’t come naturally to women? Are women unable to take the imaginative leap of creating an idea that is truly ground breaking, truly new? Of course not.
The problem is straightforward. Technology is a male-dominated industry which has created more products for a male-dominated audience; a global trend that’s hugely significant for the UK’s tech sector. Not enough women are enjoying the higher paid jobs that the sector is creating. In addition they are missing from the global influence the huge tech Ceo
giants enjoy. This is a self-fulfilling cycle that alienates half the population and must be stopped. Technology’s gender bias, much like the lack of diversity at a corporate level, feels as old as time. There is a clear consensus that this is a problem that must be addressed, but yet the numbers stay the same.
Enough is enough. Half a dozen female entrepreneurs do not mask the scale of the problem. Every single person working in the technology industry has a responsibility to recognise the need for more women to enter digital careers and cry out for change.
Despite best efforts, the vocabulary of sentiment and motivation has failed to improve the situation – and so I resort to the language of economy and industry. Diversity breeds competition and improves the quality of products. A more diverse workforce will produce better platforms, more intuitive lines of code and find unattainable answers. In short, more women in tech will help us create better tech companies more frequently.
Tapping into the female workforce would dramatically increase productivity within the fastest growing sector in the UK. Digital businesses currently employ more than 1.4m people in the UK, yet many have long-term vacancies they cannot fill. Encouraging women into digital careers would eradicate this problem, fuelling faster growth in this industry.
Britain’s tech sector has bold ambitions to be recognised as a global force. Against the might of Silicon Valley and the emerging digital economies of China and India, this is no mean feat. Yet if Britain were to take a stand on the issue of diversity, it would create an identity that resonates across this global technology community we so desperately seek to impress. This sense of purpose would not only mark us out; it is what will allow us to realise our potential.
I invited members of the Tech London Advocates Women in Tech working group to the House of Lords on Monday to mark the start of London Technology Week. For too long the question of diversity in business has rest with government, but we will set out how the private sector can drive change. It was a fantastic event full of men and women determined to help be part of the change. I salute all the work they do.
The government has provided huge support for the digital sector over the last few years introducing policies that accelerated growth at unprecedented rates. But women stayed away, continuing to be left out of the conversation.
Any solution to this huge inequality must come partly from within the private sector. It is business’s responsibility demand better from the sector, working with policymakers to implement radical change. Nothing should be off the table: if women-only shortlists for senior positions are what it takes to tip the scales, so be it.
People ask if the next Google could be produced in Britain. Chances are someone already has that idea in their head and, statistically speaking, chances are that person is a women. Letting that idea fade because of a lack of access to digital skills, a lack of opportunity or the reluctance of a closed industry would be an outrage.