The technical divide
It is actually believed by many (mostly men!) that women can’t do math or drive, and taking that argument a little further, women are not really there when it comes to occupying technical or financial roles. Though the latter part seems to be a little true when we look at the overall diversity aspect at workplaces today!
Today, diversity at workplace is the new mantra—equal and more opportunities for women at work and in leadership positions, women entrepreneurship, and many more things that we all know already. But how about looking at tech companies and start-ups, specifically women in finance and tech roles. Taking the Indian start-up industry boom, how many women do you see working, that too taking up specific roles like finance or IT? Well, the answer is ‘not many’.
A recent survey by Economic Times on female participation in technical and non-technical teams presented a distorted picture on the percentage of women employed in technical roles and non-technical roles. The survey presented that although the percentage of women enrolled in engineering and tech colleges were 28 per cent according to the Delhi Technological University, a number that is way above than what it was 20 years age (7.6%), women are still not well- represented in technical, finance or founder roles for that matter.
The ET survey actually reached out to ten highly valued start-ups like In-Mobi, Paytm, Flipkart, Snapdeal, Practo, Quikr and Ola. Where In-Mobi’s tech workforce comprised 15% of women, Paytm accounted for 20%. Although many companies like Twitter and Pinterest are proposing to increase the number of women workforce, the Indian industry is also aiming to the initiate the same efforts and goals. According to another study, the percentage of computing jobs held by women has actually fallen over the past 23 years. But this is not just limited to start-ups. Even established companies are struggling with getting the diversity piece right. Yahoo’s 2015 diversity report showed that only 16% of its tech jobs and 24% of its leadership positions are occupied by women. Facebook has 16% women in tech roles, and Google has only 18%.
Is this a lack of competency or a sheer lack of opportunity?
However globally, the picture seems to be getting better as more companies are gearing towards getting more women on board for technical roles. Apple recently stated that it had hired over 11,000 women globally in the past year—65 percent more than the previous year—to boost employee diversity.
As General Motors CEO Mary Barra says, “There will be a war for technical talent”. And it is to be understood that this lack of diversity can also pose as a constraint on innovation that women can bring on board, which is the need of the hour and a business imperative in a globalized market set up. While there is a clear shortage of women in STEM roles all though the world, the need to mentor and coach women into taking up such roles becomes important. But still, transparency in terms of disclosing the gender makeup of the workforce is an aspect that companies are still struggling with. Diversity needs to be a priority for companies today.