This year we are celebrating International Women’s Day with the theme of DigitALL – digital inclusion for gender equality, a theme Equate was excited to see highlighted by the UN. Digital inclusion is vital for a number of reasons, it is essential for reducing barriers to opportunities, it is essential for women gaining access to higher paid jobs that will help lessen the gender pay and pension gap, it is essential for creating better products, and it is essential for economic growth which benefits everyone.
We know that the digital world and technology already influence almost every aspect of our lives, and this is only set to grow more and more as new technologies emerge over the years. But more work needs to be done to ensure that tech is both accessible and representative for all.
It is estimated that 90% of jobs in the current market have a digital component, with the technical skills and knowledge required to complete them steadily becoming more sophisticated. To ensure that the job market remains open we need to widen access to upskilling opportunities to build peoples’ confidence and support them in their career development.
The acute skills shortage facing Scotland, and the UK more widely, is growing immensely. The significant gap between the skilled roles required for development and economic growth and the number of qualified or experienced people available to fill these roles is simply falling far behind. 1 in 10 job vacancies in Scotland are in the tech sector, and with the underrepresentation of women in the industry (23%) targeting women in upskilling or reskilling programmes seems like a logical first step to narrowing the skills gap.
“Gender segregation and imbalance results in lost economic potential for the country and missed opportunities for individuals.” Scottish Government 2017
Having more women in digital roles is beneficial for everyone. There is plenty evidence to show that having more diverse teams helps organisational performance. McKinsey has repeatedly shown that companies with a more gender-balanced leadership team perform better financially, and Cloverpop research clearly demonstrates that having diverse teams lead to better decision-making.
To find out more about widening your talent pool when recruiting check out our most recent blog on Equate CareerHub. A short guide to Inclusive Recruitment.
The participation of women in the tech sector is also crucial to supporting innovation and advances that work for everyone and not just for the people who design it. There is plenty of evidence to show that diverse teams create products that work better for a wider range of people. The bias that is so often built into software or into data sets is done so unconsciously. Things simply haven’t been designed with women in mind.
There was a belief that allowing Artificial Intelligence to make decisions in the recruitment process would eliminate gender bias from the hiring process. This may yet become true, however, the AI that controls aspects of recruitment such as scanning CVs are only as good as the data they are given to base their decisions off. If the data sets are skewed more towards candidates who are men in historically male-dominated fields like engineering, women applicants may miss out on being shortlisted for a role they are qualified just because the data that drives the AI’s decision-making is unbalanced.
“One of the most important things to say about the gender data gap is that it is not generally malicious, or even deliberate. Quite the opposite. It is simply the product of a way of thinking that has been around for millennia and is therefore a kind of not thinking. A double not thinking, even: men go without saying, and women don’t get said at all. Because when we say human, on the whole, we mean man.” Caroline Criado Perez, Invisible Women.
So getting more women upskilled in STEM and digital skills is critical for a number of reasons. First and foremost eliminating barriers to women’s participation in the sector is fundamentally the right thing to do. It has the added bonus of helping address the growing skills shortages in tech or digital-driven roles, boosts economic growth that supports us all, and creates products that are more representative and work well for everyone.
References and Further Reading
- Caroline Criado Perez, Invisible Women – exposing data bias in a world designed for men
- Digital Scotland: Tackling the technology gender gap together
- World Economic Forum: How to close the digital gender divide and empower women
- World Economic Forum: The gender gap in science and technology, in numbers
- World Economic Forum: Why bringing women into tech roles is good for society
- Cloverpop: Hacking Diversity with Inclusive Decision-Making
- McKinsey: Diversity Wins – how inclusion matters
- Daily Business: Scotland facing digital skills gap as vacancies rise
- The Herald: Staff shortage ‘limiting’ growth prospects for vital Scottish industry