As the technology industry continues to grow across the globe, the demand for top tech talent increases – except, we’re lacking enough trained candidates to fill the job roles. The digital skills crisis is not going away any time soon, and it’s causing major problems for tech firms that are trying to keep up with the blistering pace of the industry. But what is contributing to the ever-growing digital skills gap?
The presence of women in tech roles, from entry-level to board-level positions, is significantly lagging behind. To put this into perspective, only 26% of the UK tech workforce are women and as little as 5% of leadership roles in tech are held by women. The lack of female representation across all job roles and skill levels is leaving much work to do to close the digital skills gap in the UK. Technology businesses have a responsibility to consider how their working models can be developed to attract and retain female talent company-wide.
Organisations have a responsibility to ensure that female voices are elevated within the tech industry, so that the voices of future women entering the workforce are heard. With three million tech jobs needed to be filled by 2025, businesses must make the strides required to create a diverse tech workforce that is inclusive of those from underrepresented minorities. By increasing diversity in tech, companies can access a broader range of perspectives and ideas, which can lead to better problem-solving and innovation.
Businesses with more diverse workforces have been shown to be more successful and profitable, but it requires companies to take proactive steps to remove the barriers to entry that women face. So, what exactly can businesses do to help women bridge the digital skills gap?
What’s in this article?
- Why does the digital skills gap exist?
- The importance of women in tech
- Corporate social responsibility (CSR) to eradicate gender stereotypes
- What can businesses do to help women bridge the digital skills gap?
Why does the digital skills gap exist?
The digital skills shortage is a complex issue that involves addressing a broad range of factors in order to solve it, such as providing access to better education and training opportunities, increasing access to technology and combating social biases. Here are some of the reasons why the digital skills gap exists.
- Rapidly advancing technology: Technology is constantly evolving at such a rapid pace, which means it can be challenging for both talent and organisations to keep up to speed with the latest developments.
- Misconceptions about digital skills: There is a common misconception that digital skills are only required in tech roles, when in reality, they are becoming increasingly important in almost every industry. Digital skills are in demand across all sectors and skill levels, in fact, 82% of jobs in the UK list digital skills as a requirement.
- Lack of training and education: Many people lack the training and education required to develop their digital skills. This is especially true for individuals in underserved communities who may not have access to the latest technology, higher education or training programmes. A recent study found that only 23% of people are receiving any form of digital training through their workplace.
- Resistance to change: New technologies can be intimidating to individuals who favour traditional methods, which can cause resistance to learning new digital skills.
- Demographic factors: There are certain demographic factors, such as age or socioeconomic status, which can contribute to the lack of digital skills. Digital poverty is only worsening the divide between digital literacy and access, leaving behind those who lack the necessary resources to participate fully in the digital age. A third of young people in the UK do not have access to home broadband and around 16% of those over 18 do not have access to a computer.
- Limited exposure to STEM fields: The number of 18-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds accepted into full-time undergraduate STEM courses increased by 79% between 2010 and 2020. However, young people who are facing barriers based on their gender, race, and class still require additional support to overcome systemic barriers and achieve equality of opportunity in STEM education and careers.
- Lack of relatable role models: A lack of diversity and female representation in STEM roles means that there is a lack of relatable role models and mentors for the next generation. Although the number of women working in STEM surpassed one million for the first time ever in 2022, women still only account for 24% of the STEM workforce.
The importance of women in tech
Women play an essential role in the tech industry and their involvement is critical for the continued growth and success of the industry. It’s often overlooked that women bring unique perspectives and experiences to the workplace, and can provide creative and innovative solutions to challenges. Their participation also helps to ensure that technology is developed and deployed in ways that are inclusive, ethical, and beneficial for all.
Without women's involvement, the tech industry would miss out on the valuable contributions and diverse perspectives that they bring to the table. Let’s take a closer look at the importance of women in tech:
Women provide unique perspectives
Men and women differ in their strengths and weaknesses, and a blend of both genders is essential for business success. Men, on average, tend to be more assertive and risk-prone and function well within large competitive groups that feature stable hierarchies. Whereas women tend to work well within smaller teams and often navigate unstable hierarchies far more effectively than their male counterparts. Women also display far better communication skills than men, especially with non-verbal communication, which gives businesses with mixed teams far more effective outcomes than those with larger gender imbalances.
In the tech industry, having a diverse set of perspectives and thinking styles is incredibly important. Historically, the tech industry has been male-dominated, with women and other non-male groups being excluded from many aspects of the field. This has led to a lack of diversity in both products and services that are created, as well as in the teams that are responsible for creating them.
Research shows that companies with above-average diversity in teams produce higher revenue from innovative solutions, compared to businesses with below-average diversity. This is often translated into improved financial performance because teams are better equipped to solve complex problems. More diversification within teams can also help companies better understand and serve a wider range of customers.
Women thrive in inspiring female-led teams
Although men dominate STEM fields, the women who work in the industry must be given more exposure as role models for the next generation of women to follow. Having more visibility of female role models can inspire and encourage young women and girls to pursue careers in tech. Seeing successful women in various tech roles, from entry-level to board-level, can help young women envision themselves in those roles, giving them the confidence to pursue their passions.
Female role models can also help to challenge the stereotypes and biases that exist within the tech industry. When women are seen excelling in leadership positions and technical roles, it can challenge the notion that women are less capable or less interested in these areas. This can help break down the barriers that prevent women from advancing in their careers, leading to more inclusive workplaces. Changing the culture of the tech industry in such a way will result in increased retention of women, as well as other underrepresented groups, creating a more welcoming and diverse industry all around.
Diversity drives profitability
Organisations can benefit from a stronger financial performance by having more women in leadership positions. Research shows that companies with more women in leadership roles tend to have higher profitability and high-quality customer experiences. This could be attributed to women's different perspectives and skills in leadership roles, which can often lead to more effective decision-making and risk management.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) to eradicate gender stereotypes
Women face a range of challenges day-to-day in the workplace, including gender-based discrimination, bias, and harassment. This has led to a lack of diversity in STEM fields, which in turn can negatively impact innovation and limit the development of new technologies. Eradicating gender stereotypes in the tech industry is a critical CSR initiative that can help promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace.
Although it's easy to blame the education system for failing to bust the gender biases in early education, businesses can play an important role in encouraging interest in STEM fields from a young age. Gender biases can start as young as seven years old, and one of these misinformed biases is that women lack technological aptitude. Breaking these biases means closing the gender gap in early education with computer initiatives and curriculums.
Businesses can partner with schools and community organisations to offer mentorship programmes and internships, giving students the opportunity to explore STEM fields and gain hands-on experience. By providing resources and support, companies can help foster an interest in STEM among young people and encourage them to pursue careers in these fields, regardless of their gender.
Eradicating such systemic gender bias requires a collective effort from institutions, governments, and organisations to ensure that all training and educational opportunities are accessible to everyone. This must include the implementation of policies and practices that actively promote diversity and inclusion, such as equal pay initiatives. It’s also vital to create safe and supportive environments that empower women and other marginalised groups to speak out against gender-based discrimination and harassment.
At FDM, we are committed to promoting gender equality and closing the gender pay gap. Find out how we’re closing the gender pay gap one step at a time.
What can businesses do to help women bridge the digital skills gap?
Closing the digital skills gap requires businesses to invest in the training and development of their employees, as well as supporting initiatives that improve digital literacy among the wider community. Here are some ways companies can help women bridge the digital skills gap.
6 ways to help women bridge the digital skills gap
- Encourage other women
- Invest in training
- Promote diversity and inclusion
- Foster collaboration
- Provide flexible work arrangements
- Create a culture of learning
1. Encourage other women
Women in leadership positions can encourage other women to pursue careers in technology and provide mentorship and support, helping them to build their digital skills further. They can also work to create a more inclusive workplace culture that promotes diversity and equality by advocating for policies that address gender-based discrimination within the tech industry.
By using their influence and position of power, women in senior positions can support and empower other women to break down the barriers to gender equality in tech. This will not only benefit individual women, but it will also contribute to a more diverse and innovative industry that better reflects the needs and perspectives of society as a whole.
2. Invest in training
Businesses can invest in training and development programmes for their female employees to help them build digital skills and stay up-to-date with the latest technologies. These programmes can include mentorship and networking opportunities, online training courses, and access to conferences and industry events. By providing female employees with the support and resources they require for success in the tech industry, businesses can help promote diversity and inclusion, while also improving the skills and capabilities of their workforce.
Investing in training can lead to greater innovation and productivity, as well as increased job satisfaction. This will make it easier for businesses to attract and retain women in tech, as companies will be recognised for providing a supportive and inclusive work environment, regardless of gender. In the long term, it will also strengthen the business’s reputation and brand image among customers, investors, and other stakeholders.
3. Promote diversity and inclusion
It’s vital for businesses to promote diversity and inclusion in their hiring practices and create a supportive work environment where women can thrive in technology roles. This can be achieved through a range of initiatives, such as implementing gender-neutral recruitment processes, establishing diversity and inclusion committees, and offering flexible working arrangements and family-friendly policies, for example.
By prioritising diversity and inclusion in their hiring and retention processes, businesses can create a more innovative and productive workforce that better reflects the needs and perspectives of their customers. Businesses can also work to eliminate gender-based discrimination in the workplace by establishing clear reporting and accountability mechanisms to address any incidents.
4. Foster collaboration
Businesses can foster collaboration between women in tech roles and other departments to encourage cross-functional learning and collaboration. This type of collaboration can result in a more diverse and inclusive workplace culture, as well as more innovative solutions to complex business problems.
Additionally, by providing opportunities for women in tech to work closely with other departments, businesses can help break down silos to create a more cohesive and collaborative environment. This can contribute to increased employee engagement, job satisfaction and improved retention, which ultimately benefit the business as a whole.
5. Provide flexible work arrangements
Companies should consider offering flexible work arrangements, such as remote work options and flexible schedules to help women balance work and personal responsibilities. Providing flexible work arrangements can help to address some of the barriers that women in tech roles may face, such as balancing work and family commitments. This can create a positive and inclusive workplace culture that values work-life balance and supports the needs of all employees.
Allowing employees to work remotely or on flexible schedules can enable businesses to tap into a wider talent pool, including women who may not be able to work traditional hours due to childcare commitments.
6. Create a culture of learning
Fostering a culture of learning where employees are encouraged to continuously build their digital skills through training, workshops, and other learning opportunities enables businesses to ensure that their employees have the skills and knowledge to remain competitive in a rapidly changing landscape. This can improve employee engagement, as employees feel empowered to take ownership of their professional development and build their digital skills further.
Women play a vital role in tech roles, bringing unique perspectives and skills to the table that can drive innovation in the industry. It is the responsibility of businesses to ensure that there are no limits to what women can achieve in the workplace. This means creating a culture of inclusion and equality, and actively promoting gender diversity in all areas of the organisation, from hiring and promotions to pay and benefits.
Promoting gender diversity in the tech industry can result in better decision-making and increased profitability for businesses. When diverse perspectives are put forward, companies are better equipped to identify and solve complex problems, adapt to changing market conditions and capitalise on emerging trends. So, it’s vital that businesses reevaluate their gender diversity, as it may well be the answer to the digital skills shortage.
Are you looking to promote gender equality in your business? Discover our technical consultant services to benefit from diverse talent to help you build an inclusive workforce, or get in touch to find out how we can help you close the digital skills gap.