Understand the vital role of schools in developing equal representation in the tech sector and how you can lead on this in your school, with InnovateHer’s communications assistant, Libby Laycock.

Many believe that as long as there is at least one woman or non-binary person represented when working in tech, products will be designed with everyone in mind; that one voice will make the difference – but it’s not true. It is equal representation, lots of voices, which will make the difference. That doesn’t mean just more women and non-binary people, but racially, ethnically and physically diverse, neurodiverse, and those of different sexualities. Everyone needs to have the same opportunity to have a career in tech. A good starting point is gender diversity. As of 2022, WeAreTechWomen reported that the tech sector was made up of only 28% women and gender minorities, which shows steps still need to be taken to reach equality in the industry.

Not having equal representation in tech means that society is failing.

It’s not including a key demographic. For example, did you know that it wasn’t until last year – last year – that a female crash-test dummy was used in car safety tests? That’s over 50 years of using the male form. The design didn’t factor in women but now that it does, driving has been made far safer for them.

Equal representation in tech means that everyone is valued and considered. It’s about different voices, skills and talents all working together to ensure society can function.

Why isn’t it equal?

The lack of equal representation in the tech sector comes down to various factors:

Gender bias

No matter how much change has been made, the bias still remains. In fact, ‘76% of the Women In Tech survey respondents have experienced gender bias in the workplace at least once.’ This is a staggering statistic. It’s more than just a number; it’s a statement on how in a place where women should feel comfortable, a lot of them don’t feel they belong.

One crucial way to remove gender bias is through educating – not just people in the workplace itself, but those at a younger age – to cut those preconceived thoughts short. This can be done through teachers getting female and non-binary students involved in tech subjects at school, whether that’s through attending tech events or courses, or having them meet women and non-binary people in tech. It is also essential for male students to understand that the tech sector isn’t ‘just for them.’ They should be shown that they can be allies to this issue, so that gender bias in the industry can be defeated.

Lack of investment

A lack of investment into people, workplace culture and opportunities is a big barrier to equal representation for the tech sector. If organisations don’t make an invested effort, there will always be a struggle to achieve equality and representation. According to a report by Women In Tech, ‘over 15% of those surveyed said that a lack of promotional opportunities is a factor to why women are put off working in tech.’ The chance to progress isn’t there, which limits the amount of representation, particularly in senior roles, with ‘only 22% of decision making roles filled by women.’ This lack of representation in senior positions has consequences, because if women don’t feel represented at a high level then they may not apply for the job at all.

Education

Education is both a barrier and a strength towards equal representation in tech. It’s a barrier, as a lack of education causes the issue, but it’s a strength because with more people educated, more can work towards overcoming the issue at hand. A striking example of the lack of education is around women who work in tech, according to a study by PwC, “78% of students couldn’t name a famous female working in tech”. There is a huge disconnect between the industry and education in inspiring students into the tech sector.

“67% think access to mentors is important in attracting them to an organisation.” Since female tech employees find a workplace having mentorship schemes makes it more appealing, this could have a knock-on effect for students finding the industry more appealing. Being made aware and discovering female role-models in tech would allow them to feel seen, and see that they too can pursue a career in tech. Hearing about different journeys into tech makes it feel attainable.

Equal representation cannot be achieved without education. Education is where change can be made from a young age, embedding young women and non-binary people with the belief and skills to succeed in tech.

How can you help?

There’s a quote by William Arthur Ward, “The great teacher inspires,” and that’s exactly the role that you have in helping to achieve equal representation in the tech industry. By showing that the tech industry is a space for female and non-binary students, it can become more representative, creating a stronger society.

There are several ways to do this at school:

  • introduce students to tech role-models
  • get involved in tech-specific events for students
  • offer extra-curricular activities that link with the school curriculum and teach students about different parts of the tech sector.

You can access some resources through InnovateHer, an organisation working to make the tech sector more equitable, by increasing diversity across the spectrum and creating more inclusive workplaces, whilst working with students to get more girls and non-binary teens into tech. InnovateHer provides schools the opportunity for assemblies, role model talks and access to their e-learning platform, which provides courses on tech and videos on careers and personal development that helps students ‘find their voice’. The activities are free to schools and have been crafted to support teachers to encourage female and non-binary students into tech-based subjects, with the purpose of giving students the confidence and the education to one day pursue a career in tech.

Your role as a teacher is one of the most important in a young person’s life – they learn from you, they grow into adults with your support, and are inspired by you. You could be one of the first to show them that this can be a career for them, that their limitations can be overcome. To be a voice to improve representation in the tech sector starts at school, through showcasing what it means to work in tech and how students can start their journey towards a career to have the opportunity to impact the world for the better.

The next step

For the tech sector to even be at the start of having equal representation, it needs to reach a “30% tipping point”. However, 30% is still far from 50%, which shows that the sector has a lot of room to improve. To build towards this equal representation, female and non-binary students need to be shown what they are capable of achieving in tech. A big part of the solution is school, it’s you. Whether through extra-curricular learning or meeting real-life role models, it’s important that students are introduced to tech at a young age so they have the opportunity to reach their full tech potential.

Author

  • Libby Laycock

    Libby works for InnovateHer, an organisation that works to increase diversity within the tech sector by encouraging more girls and non-binary teens to pursue a tech career. The organisation helps to shape future society by building towards a more equal sector and giving further opportunities to young people.
    twitter icon LinkedIn icon Website icon