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Highlighting women’s role in tech

Image: Adobe Stock / Angelo J/peopleimages.com

In celebration of Women’s History Month, it is important to reflect on the numerous contributions and achievements made by women throughout history, including those in the technology industry.

A recent study by McKinsey revealed women only make up 22% of the tech workforce in the UK, with even fewer in leadership positions. Women in this industry also experience discrimination, harassment, and limited support for career advancement. Addressing the gender imbalance in tech and empowering women in the industry is key to building a more prosperous and equitable future for all. However, women continue to experience gender bias, the gender pay gap, and a lack of support and mentorship due to limited contact with female role models at work.

Gender bias creates a glass ceiling in tech. Women are often subject to stereotypes that they are less capable, which can lead to discrimination in hiring, promotions, and salary decisions. Women can also be excluded from informal networks that can facilitate relationships that help to advance their careers. According to a study by PwC, only 5% of leadership positions in the technology industry are held by women.

Getting into tech

The lack of women in leadership positions in the tech industry feeds into the shortage of female role models – the PwC study also found 78% of women surveyed couldn’t name a famous woman in tech. A lack of female representation in tech may discourage women from entering the industry, as they struggle to envision a clear career path. At Equinix, we have introduced a new mentoring initiative across EMEA for female-identifying and non-binary colleagues to support their growth and provide networking opportunities. The programme, launching in May 2023, aims to support representation for all at the heart of Equinix. Participants can benefit from gaining cross-regional cultural understanding, career guidance, tips to succeed within the tech industry, and advice on difficult conversations such as tackling pay.

The gender pay gap means women sometimes earn less than men in the same industry for the same work. This can make it difficult for women to feel valued and can lead to a lack of motivation and career advancement. According to research conducted by the benchmarking platform Figures in partnership with the inclusive recruiting platform 50inTech, women in the UK tech industry who work full-time year-round jobs earn just 74p for every pound earned by men. This is where Equinix’s advice on difficult conversations serves to support women in bringing injustices faced in the workplace to light.

Finding a balance

Balancing work and caregiving responsibilities can also be a significant challenge for women in the workplace, with the tech industry no exception. Mothers may feel pressure to choose between their careers and their families, which can lead to them leaving the workplace or not progressing into leadership positions. Equinix is working hard to support mothers so they don’t have to sacrifice their careers when taking on caregiving responsibilities. We recently introduced a job share role for two skilled female sales executives returning from maternity leave. The women share customer relationships and sales targets, each working half the week. Their customers appreciate the diversity of the approach, and the female employees can more easily balance their careers and caregiving responsibilities.

It’s important we find the right balance in the workplace, so women are not forced to put their careers on hold. They must be able to achieve a work-life balance that allows them to progress in the workplace while juggling other responsibilities at home. Achieving this balance will enable women to accelerate into leadership roles because they won’t be putting their careers on hold when they have children.

Last year, Equinix launched a global foundation focused on the advancement of digital inclusion. The Equinix Foundation strives to make a difference in bridging the gender digital divide and recently partnered with World Pulse, a women-led global social network, to provide women with access to technology and connectivity while also equipping them with the skills necessary for a career in tech. More specifically, the foundation supports World Pulse’s Her Digital Leadership Alliance, which empowers women in underrepresented communities to gain digital skills and access.

In addition, Equinix initiatives including the ‘I Am Remarkable’ programme, which celebrates transferable skills and supports women entering the industry after a career break, and the Equinix Women Leaders Network (EWLN) seek to address the gender imbalance in tech. We recognise the value women bring to the workplace, including unique skills such as empathy, communication and time management.

As we continue to make progress, it is important to remember the inspiring women who have paved the way for women in science and technology, for example Ada Lovelace who continues to be remembered for her discovery of the first computer coding capabilities in the early 19th century. More recently, the inspiring story of the stars of Hidden Figures, a group of African-American women who played key roles in NASA’s space programme in the 1960s, highlighting the important role women have played in shaping the world of tech.

Today, there are many incredible women in tech who are continuing to pave the way for the next generation of female tech leaders, such as Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code. These examples serve as a reminder that women have been breaking barriers in the industry for generations.

In conclusion, Women’s History Month is an opportunity for us to reflect on the significant contributions women have made in various industries, including tech. Although women in this industry continue to face various barriers, we are heading in the right direction with increased initiatives to provide women with equal access to opportunities and support. Progress in this area has been too slow, but with a collective effort, the tech industry can target the key issues facing women in the workplace, truly nurturing and leveraging the diverse talent women bring to the table.

Lorraine Wilkinson
Lorraine Wilkinson
Regional Vice President of Sales UK at Equinix

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