There is no force more powerful than a woman determined to rise! However, common misconceptions that plague our nation’s STEM industries could mean that not enough women are given the necessary confidence, tools, and opportunities to begin a career in these subjects.
Let’s take the UK tech industry, for example. A report discovered that only 17% of the IT sector’s workforce is made up of females. With young, impressionable women exposed to misleading and inaccurate theories, it’s no wonder why a significant proportion aren’t running towards these subjects.
It’s crucial we debunk these common misconceptions and begin having valuable conversations about women in tech. Not only will it encourage diversity and inclusivity but motivating more women to seek careers in STEM will create a better work culture, foster innovation, and improve results.
Myth #1: Women aren’t interested in technology
This is a stereotype that holds no factual weight, especially in 2023. In fact, the number of women applying to IT courses has increased by a staggering 82% over the last 10 years. This proves that not only are women interested in the subject but that the interest is growing.
It’s also important to consider how crucial technology is in many women’s personal lives. Regular usage demonstrates a level of understanding and engrossment, so it would be wrong to believe a lack of interest is at fault here.
Myth #2: Women lack the skills and abilities for tech jobs
Not only is this an inaccurate claim, but it is also a damaging one. The biological sex of a person plays no part in their ability to grasp a certain subject or skill set. Some women may lack the relevant skills and abilities for a tech job, but the reason behind this could be one of many. Spoiler alert: none include gender.
If women do have an interest but an absence of skills, one cause could include insufficient encouragement while growing up. Subconscious stereotyping is still a problem within some families; the ‘football is for boys and dancing is for girls’ mentality is outdated and yet it lingers.
When we conform to this kind of labelling early on, we’re teaching our children that their gender should influence their interests. This will set them down a (what could be wrong) path that impacts their adulthood.
Myth 3: Women aren’t competitive enough
Sure, some women aren’t competitive enough to be triumphant in the tech field, but the same could be said about some men too. Although studies have suggested that the average woman is generally less competitive than the average man, there isn’t enough evidence to support claims that this statement is responsible for a lack of women in the sector.
The success of numerous women in the tech industry does well to debunk this myth. It was Ada Lovelace who became the world’s first computer programmer, and Hedy Lamar who pioneered the technology that would eventually provide the basis for WiFi. The competitiveness of these ladies has never come under scrutiny.
Myth #4: Women aren’t committed to their careers long-term
Ambition and commitment are not a cause for concern when it comes to many women. This claim perpetuates harmful stereotypes as it implies males should be awarded positions over females in every situation, because, apparently, they’ll be much more dedicated to the job role and company.
In reality, women have proven to be just as ambitious and committed as men. In fact, a study by McKinsey & Company found that 74% of women aspire to be in top executive positions; only 2% lower than the 76% of men who made the same statement.
In addition to this, females are more likely to face additional obstacles in the workplace, meaning yet more effort and dedication is given to overcome these challenges. Make no mistake, women are determined to climb the ranks in the tech industry and make an impact with every step.
Grace Anderson, senior HR business partner at Kura, supports the long-term benefits women bring to the workplace. She said: “As an employer, it is incredibly useful for us to have multiple viewpoints when outlining business strategy or implementing changes based on our employees’ feedback. Women’s contributions to the workplace take many forms, including improved retention, enhanced collaboration, and boosted employee engagement through inspiring female employees.”
So, what’s the deal?
Now that we’ve debunked four of the most common myths, let’s discuss the real reason why only one in six employees working in Britain’s IT industry are female. It’s not because they lack drive, or interest, or aren’t competitive enough. More likely, stereotypes and cultural attitudes cause the underrepresentation of women, as well as bias and discrimination.
Let’s start from the bottom. We need to be encouraging more young girls to explore STEM subjects by providing relevant, consistent opportunities in schools and communities, and giving them access to resources that will help them decide if it’s a topic that they’re interested in.
Anderson continues: “Seeing women in leadership roles is crucial for women who want to pursue careers in these fields.”
As we move higher up the order, we should look to address workplace bias that contributes to this divide. Whether consciously or subconsciously, we’ve yet to create working environments within the tech sector that fully caters to the needs of women.
If we can master that, we can enjoy a much more diverse industry that produces better results. Here’s to all the wonderful women making a positive impact in tech!