Four ways businesses can reduce the gender gap in tech

Gender equality and ESG aren’t just the right things to do, they are a non-negotiable business necessity
A lack of gender diversity carries with it a major opportunity cost. We talk to Solange Sobral, Partner at CI&T about how leaders can help empower women

Recently, the World Economic Forum (WEF) released the latest version of its Global Gender Gap Report – which benchmarks a country’s evolution of gender parity across multiple metrics, highlighting the global progress – or lack thereof – that nations are making towards equality.

Unfortunately, the 2023 report still shows that no country has yet achieved parity.

The UK’s score has improved slightly on last year’s, having now closed 79.2% of its gender gap (up from 78% in 2022), but this still only leaves the UK 15th on the country-by-country index.

It’s clear that there’s much more work to be done — but whose responsibility is it?

Men’s role in gender equality

While in most walks of life, it’s common for people afflicted by a problem to be the ones who fix it, when it comes to equality, this is not the case, explains London-based Solange Sobral, EVP and Partner at digital consultancy CI&T.

“Often, men are unaware of their privileges because they were born into a largely patriarchal society that has favoured their needs and interests. Men hold much of the power, so they must also acknowledge that they have the capacity to enact real change.”

It isn’t simply the ‘right thing to do’, either.

With around half of the population facing an uneven playing field, unable to fully contribute and reach its potential, the wider world is missing out on significant talent, ideas, and progress.

“This is particularly important for businesses,” says Solange. “To unlock both positive growth and reputation, the responsibility is on workplaces to make themselves more equitable.”

While also a mother of three, Solange has recently been listed in the top 100 women in innovation in Brazil by Epoca Negocios (Brazil’s premier business outlet), and she was the first woman to join the Board of Directors of Unidas, one of the leading car rental companies in Brazil.

As a leader, Solange’s personal ambition is to bring more Humanised Management to corporate environments and at CI&T she leads expansion into Europe, working on sustainable growth for business in the European market, while creating a healthy and engaging environment for employees, in line with ESG principles.

Here, Solange points to four ways organisations and leaders can help empower women to instil company-wide, and nationwide, inclusivity.

Solange Sobral, Partner at CI&T

1

Invest in the pipeline of early talent

study of UK A-Level and university students by PwC shows that the tech gender gap begins as early as school. Only 27% of female students say they would consider a career in tech, compared to 61% of males, and just 3% rank it as their number-one choice. 

Considering the tech sector’s trillion-dollar contribution to the UK economy, that’s a worryingly low figure. Not enough females recognise tech and engineering to be exciting, viable pathways. So, a lot of work needs to be done with career advisors, schools, colleges, and universities to highlight tech as a great opportunity for women.

We need more successful women to become mentors and allies themselves, nurturing young people with trustworthy guidance and networking connections to help kickstart their careers. Simply, we must teach young people the ‘art of the possible’.  

2

Eliminate stereotyping and prejudice from the workplace

Sadly, women continue to face a swathe of biases, whether conscious or unconscious, that regularly impact their workplace standing. For instance, assertive males are often praised as gold dust in the industry and tipped as top leadership material. Females who are assertive, however, are considered ‘bossy’ and ‘abrasive’.

Similarly, women’s responsibilities as caregivers can sometimes block their career progression. 41% of UK women care for children, grandchildren, older people, or people with a disability, compared to just a quarter of men. Meanwhile, one in eight UK employers admit they are more reluctant to hire a woman who they think may go on to start a family. 

To boost female representation in tech, organisations must strive to remove their biases and attract working mothers into the industry. This can begin with ensuring female voices are properly heard, and tweaking workplace benefits to feature perks like flexible hours and childcare support for both mothers and fathers. When employers crack down on their prejudices, we’ll see more women wanting to work and flourish in tech. 

3

Increase female representation within leadership roles

When it comes to earning senior roles and promotions, bias means women must be everything a man is in terms of competency and ability, and then some. In fact, multiple pieces of research show that women are consistently judged as having less leadership potential than their male counterparts.

For instance, Kantar’s ‘Reykjavík Index for Leadership’ measures the extent to which men and women are viewed by the public as suitable for positions of authority. The organisation’s latest report scored the UK at 82, and the G7 average at 75—both far behind a rating of 100, which indicates full equality. 

As a result, females are severely underrepresented in leadership and senior positions, and this lack of role models is then impacting women who are looking to make the step up. Women want to feel inspired by similar females in a position of seniority. So, organisations in the tech sector must review their management teams to ensure strong female representation and encourage the next generation of talent to thrive.

4

Empower women to grow, inside and outside of work

Organisations must give their female workers the freedom to be true to, and believe in, themselves. As women in a largely male-dominated tech world, they may be tempted to change or doubt their capabilities. Don’t allow this. Help them to become confident, assured, and considered, and they will flourish.

Above all, businesses must enable women to take accountability for their careers—in other words, ‘design their own destiny’. They must be supported to find their place in the company and in society – somewhere they own and have carved out for themselves so that no one can push them out or tell them what to do. 

Businesses need a great ESG agenda because it is what today’s top talent wants, says Solange

The irrefutable importance of ESG

Solange insists that gender equality and wider ESG must form a big part of a business’s strategic agenda, with set KPIs such as a percentage of women hired per vacancy and a female career acceleration programme.

“Alongside establishing an official committee to monitor progress, ESG must also pervade throughout an organisation so that it becomes decentralised. In other words, every single person is responsible for its success. ESG must form the cornerstone of an organisation’s culture.”

Ultimately, businesses also need a great ESG agenda because it is what today’s top talent wants, she explains. “If you’re looking to attract and retain the best employees and prove to partners, vendors, and customers that you’re a positive, progressive company to work with, you need clear ESG commitments.”

In fact, research shows that ESG principles alone can boost profits by as much as 9.1%.

“Gender equality and ESG aren’t just the right things to do — they are a non-negotiable business necessity.

“With just under a year until the World Economic Forum’s next gender gap report, let’s see what progress 2023/24 can bring.”

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