There has been extensive discussions in recent years about the lack of female representation in tech industries. Critics have particularly condemned the low number of women occupying management and C-level roles. Traditionally, technology was associated with men, and the old argument was that there simply weren’t enough women in the industry to offer equal representation (let alone at a senior level). While it’s true that only 5% of leadership positions at UK technology organisations are held by women, this sort of fatalistic thinking does nothing to implement change.
A Culture Shift Ahead
The challenge within the tech industry is two-fold. Firstly, we need to focus on securing a diverse workforce in the future, by making sure a STEM career path is accessible to girls. Secondly, we must proactively tackle imbalance within existing workplaces. Girls need to be able to see the path ahead and in order for that to happen, women before them must have already walked it.
A key focus for companies should be to maximise the retention of female staff. In the US, The National Center for Women & Information Technology found that 56 percent of women in the tech industry leave their employers mid-career. Contrary to popular opinion, the research suggests that “women are not exiting these careers primarily for family concerns”. Instead, reasons varied from a lack of access to creative technical roles, to limited career prospects, and institutional barriers.
This means that women are not fulfilling their potential within organisations, and ultimately not progressing into senior roles. New initiatives such as the Tech Talent Charter in the UK, are looking to reverse this trend. The TTC is a collective scheme in which organisations pledge to support recruitment and retention practices, designed to increase diversity. Hundreds of businesses, from start-ups to large organisations, have committed to the scheme.
Diversity in the Streaming Media Sector
While championing structural change in all organisations is important, it’s also vital to develop connections between women currently working in these sectors. Women in Streaming Media is a global networking organisation, created to increase diversity and give more visibility to women in the streaming media industry. Its aim is to help women achieve their professional goals through mentoring programmes and networking events.
Conferences play a central role in shaping the future of an industry and up until now, that shape has been predominantly male. Events company Bizzabo used AI facial recognition to analyse data from over 60k event speakers between 2013 and 2018, across thousands of global professional events. The gender distribution of speakers within that data set was 69% male and 31% female. Internet-focused tech events were among the worst offenders, with a 79% male and 21% female split.
When developing an international industry profile, speaking opportunities and panel appearances matter. They provide participants with credibility and exposure to new career opportunities. Likewise, they matter for the event itself – showcasing female talent at conferences creates an inclusive environment for other female attendees. Women in Streaming Media aims to increase female presence at tech events and in leadership roles. The organisation has been instrumental in placing female leaders as keynote event speakers, as well as facilitating the representation of female experts on panel talks.
The Next Step
Despite these advances, there are still only a relatively small number of women speaking at events. Companies need to connect with diversity groups and pro-actively support staff in broader initiatives. Employers should ensure that the resources are in place to send female staff to events, as well as encourage them to represent the company. This might include public speaking or media training courses, and not only the cost of participating at the event itself.
While several companies are implementing schemes to bring gender balance to job roles, it’s still necessary to create women’s groups to promote visibility within the industry as a whole. These groups foster an environment of empowerment for female staff facing daily challenges. Team leaders may need to look outside their organisation to ensure they are providing suitable mentoring opportunities for women in their departments.
I have been working with the Women in Streaming mentoring programme for several months now. Schemes like this offer a great way to connect women across the industry and support career growth. In sectors where women are underrepresented, cross-company networking is the logical solution.
This is not a fight for female recognition in the industry, it’s a call-out that we are already here. We are still very far from gender sustainability, but we are slowly walking towards it. We just need to make sure that we’re putting up signposts for the generation following us.