When I was first asked to record the third podcast in our series, which would be about women in technology and featured CIOs Anna Barsby and Helena Nimmo, I thought, “As a man, am I really qualified to host this discussion?”.
Personally, I’ve worked for seven companies, and almost half my bosses have been female. Among them was Chris Davis (CFO of Forstmann Little) and others who I and many others considered inspirational leaders. I’ve also had some amazing women work in my teams, including some of the best architects, project managers, and DevOps people that I’ve ever collaborated with. I try to always have the view of people as human first and focus on the value that they bring, rather than putting them into buckets.
To get a better perspective of women in technology today, I asked some women about their experiences, and frankly I’m still shocked by some of the stories I was told. (Thank you to various women around Endava, our customers, and some friends who helped open my eyes and assisted me with my research).
I heard about women only a little younger than me returning to education to get professional qualifications because they said that they were expected to prove themselves. Others thought back on their education and how they were discouraged from pursuing STEM subjects in school.
I was pointed to the media stories about women TV presenters earning less than their male counterparts. The women I was talking to found themselves wondering if they were in the same position relative to their male peers but stated that they didn’t have any real way to find out if that were the case.
When I spoke to one of our female customers at work, she asked if I had ever received messages from managers at 1:00 a.m. asking if I’m OK.
I thought this is how society had behaved decades ago–not here in 2020.
Does it start at school?
What can we do about the situation? Some people point to education and say that instruction about these kinds of issues needs to start at a young age.
I have three teenage daughters and two of them enjoy playing football, including a Sunday league team. At school (a mixed state school, if it makes any difference) they were told by a female sports teacher not to pursue football at GCSE level because the girls in their year are better at throwing a ball than kicking it.
My younger daughter said, “It’s annoying that girls can’t play the boys’ sports. We have to play indoor sports like table tennis”.
The statistics about Steve
In readiness for the podcast, I encountered several key research stats. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to cover them all during our recording. So, here they are:
- According to a UK-based PwC study, only 3% of female A level students (aged 16-18) say a career in technology is their first choice, which makes it unsurprising that only 5% of leadership positions in the technology sector are held by women.
- The gender pay gap has narrowed to a record low but is closing slowly. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) the average female worker earned 17.9% less than her male counterpart, down from 18.4% last year. Since 2011 the gender pay gap has fallen by an average of just 0.3 percentage points a year. At this rate it will take around 55 years (until 2073) to achieve pay parity between men and women. Source: TUC
- Despite efforts to improve boardroom diversity, a FTSE 100 CEO is more likely to be called Steve or Stephen than to be female. There are only six female CEOs in this year’s analysis, a slight drop from seven last year, and they were paid 32% less on average compared with their male counterparts. In FYE 2018, male CEOs in the FTSE 100 earned a mean of £4.80 million compared with £3.25 million for women. Source: CIPD
- Women are often hired to lead already failing companies. When a woman is ‘forced off the cliff’ (i.e. out of the senior role), it can affirm beliefs that women aren’t good leaders anyway. “When we think crisis – we think female”. Source: PBS
When encountering statistics like these, it seems apparent men and women are not on a level pitch. However, it doesn’t have to remain this way.
Perhaps we can begin changing the culture for good by being more aware and branching out from there. Educating our children about these problems seems like a good start, as does understanding the dilemma from a data perspective.
Ultimately, though, I think clear communication amongst all of us will be key in guiding us toward the right direction. It’s definitely a conversation we need to keep having.
Please listen to the podcasts and let me know what you think. You can contact me here.