What can be done to address the falling number of women in digital jobs

By 2022, Britain is expected to need 1.2m additional digital professionals. However, in today’s thriving digital industry, how are women paving their way in these traditionally male-dominated careers? We explore the demographics of the UK digital sector and the impact this is having on businesses and the future of women in digital.

Statistics released by the UK’s Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) in 2015 found that just 27% of those employed in the UK’s digital industries were women, down from 33% in 2002. The report highlights that women are underrepresented at all levels, particularly in decision-making and management positions. Despite the expected increase in demand for such professionals by 2022, the UKCES model suggests that the proportion of female digital employees will still have barely risen above the 30% mark. Today, women are still outnumbered by men at least three to one in over half (53%) of UK digital tech companies according to Tech Nation’s 2017 report. Of the 2,700+ businesses that took part in the study, just 11% operate with a team where women are in the majority.
Research conducted in September 2015 by Education Scotland found that girls within the UK often outperform boys in physics and receive similar results in mathematics, while findings from the report ‘Gender differences and bias in open source: Pull request acceptance of women versus men’ show that women’s coding skills may outdo that of their male counterparts. So what has led to this gender gap in the digital industry and why does it matter? 

The gender gap

Aoife Ni Luanaigh, senior manager in the research and technical team at the UKCES commented on why so few women are involved in the digital sector. “In part, it’s a reflection of the gender balance of people going on to do related courses at University or at further education colleges, and boys are more likely than girls to be involved in technology clubs at school,” she said. In fact, just 29 out of every 1000 female graduates have a computing or digital related degree, according to the European commission’s report ‘Women in Digital’.
Christina Morillo, co-founder of Women of Colour in Tech believes that “we as a society have done a terrible job of encouraging young girls to engage in STEM at an early age”. She expands on this by explaining that boys are led down different career paths as they are encouraged to play with robots, spaceships and gadgets whilst girls tend to be offered princesses or animals. Marketing of technology has traditionally been targeted towards a male audience, with the first ever video games having been marketed almost exclusively towards men. So perhaps then these elements have portrayed technology and digital industries as a ‘boys’ club’?
A study on ‘Women Active in the ICT Sector’ published by the EU Commission during 2013, found that encouraging more women to pursue digital careers could create an annual GDP boost of €9bn  in the EU area. Furthermore, there are numerous reports and studies which have been undertaken to emphasise and prove the importance of a gender diverse workforce. Specifically, research conducted by Harvard Business School found that teams with women, and a diverse mix of people in general, produce better results and are much more collaborative in nature. The fact that diverse teams produce better results alone should encourage businesses to work proactively towards closing the digital gender gap.
At present, the most popular jobs for women in digital are in marketing, communications and client-facing roles where the gender gap has been closing significantly in social media, public relations and communications positions. However, the male to female ratio of candidates in more technical positions such as PPC, SEO and product roles is a stark contrast, with a significant weighting towards men.

Women as leaders in digital

Despite the undeniable under-representation of women in digital, we must acknowledge the increasing influence women are having on the digital landscape. According to the Bloomberg’s ‘Best Companies for Leadership’ survey, the top 20 organisations were almost twice as likely to have a high proportion of women in senior leadership positions. With global organisations employing influential female leaders such as Marris Mayer, VP of search product and user experience at Google, Carol Bartz Yahoo’s president and CEO, Sheryl Sandberg COO of Facebook, Anne Moore CEO of Time Inc. and Sarah Chubb, president of Condé Nast Digital, it is clear that digital leadership is no longer a man’s world.
In an era where digital technology is increasingly impacting the way consumers and businesses behave, companies will be looking to expand their teams with a focus on hiring talented professionals and closing the gender gap in the industry. Whilst Britain is nowhere near the level of female representation in the digital sector that it should be, as shown by the number of women placed in senior leadership positions within global companies such as Google and Facebook, women are increasingly being recognised as talented equals and are being placed in management roles where they are helping to redefine the future of digital. Young women should be encouraged to study STEM subjects further during school and the career opportunities need to be better highlighted to talent at all levels. Attracting women into digital roles should be a key focus for all businesses in the UK, not only to improve diversity with teams but to ensure the future sustainability of the rapidly growing industry.
If you would like to discuss any of our digital roles available or to explore how we can help recruit talented digital professionals into your team please contact us today.
Toma Indriulyte
T: +44 207 269 2576
Rebecca Moore
T: +44 20 7269 2146