Addressing the lack of women in technology roles – again
Nothing will change without good people coming together to push for more inclusive ways of thinking, working and planning
There are lots of qualified women candidates for senior tech roles – they just don’t get a look in.
‘We’ve been talking about this for so long and been here before – when are things going to change?” That Twitter comment summed up the view of many women over the past few months, after watching the topic of women in technology roles surface again and again.
There have been several incidents in Silicon Valley. One involved a woman tweeting images of a group of men at a tech event who were making some poorly judged, sexist comments among themselves. At another big conference in the Valley, some male company foun- ders made funding pitches that were crude and offensive.
In Ireland, a clumsy ad for the Web Summit that highlighted, as if it were an amusing norm, the lack of women that would be attending, got an angry response and was rightly pulled.
Then there was the story that Twitter still had no women – or for that matter, any kind of ethnic diversity – on its board, as it prepared for an IPO.
A Valley publication’s list of top journalists covering technology failed to include a single woman, even though there are numerous high-profile women in the US covering the sector.
Back to the Web Summit last month, which had another successful year and huge attendance, but only about 10 per cent women were represented on the programme. This was highlighted by a disappointing level of women speakers, something of which the organisers themselves are acutely aware. The reality though was bleaker. Many of those women listed as speakers were not speakers at all, but moderators of panels (including myself). It is a necessary role for panels or onstage interviews, of course, and there were many male moderators as well, but it is not quite the same as being a speaker.
The end result has been – I believe – much positive consideration, here and internationally, by men and women, of how to address such problems.
The standard excuses for the low level of women speakers at events, low representation at executive level and near invisibility at board level on technology companies, is that the “right” women are not available for these tasks, that there just aren’t enough women in technology and that scarcity is represented all the way up to the top.
Really, though, that’s confusing two separate issues. Yes, far fewer girls take the hard science courses in school which would lead them into a hard science degree, which in turn brings them into the pure technology roles in industry. This is an issue that needs addressing at the earliest age. Increasingly, it’s being taken on outside the schoolroom by coding clubs and other activities aimed at girls.