For tech agencies, International Women’s Day is a time to celebrate the many achievements of women in design, development, UX and innovation. As well as a time to reflect on the many barriers women still face. And this year, the theme of IWD is #BreakTheBias.
That bias still exists in tech is in no doubt. There’s been great strides made in recent years, but according to ONS only 31% of UK tech jobs are held by women and over half of female tech professionals feel the industry is not doing enough to drive change.
A lot of this is systemic. Women are significantly underrepresented on STEM courses at university, and in 2020, the number of girls choosing to study computer science GCSE was 16,919 – only 21.4% of total entrants.
When we spoke to some of our own women Ducks about the bias they’d faced in tech, they said...
"One of the biggest biases I’ve faced in the tech industry as a specialist B2B tech marketer, is that marketing is often viewed as an afterthought or ‘pretty’ add-on. When in fact, even the most brilliant code or digital product will fail without a robust marketing strategy. Given many women do still get into tech via non-technical routes, it's really something that needs to be tackled."
Melissa Lehrer, CMO
"The greatest bias I faced was really from my family expecting me to fulfil more stereotypical feminine activities. Something which is quite common."
Siobhan Daley, UI Designer
How can we address this challenge?
A big part of tackling bias and getting girls to consider tech as a career is to challenge the ‘bro culture' and improve the representation of women in leadership positions. As part of our IWD 2021 commitments, we set out to improve women’s representation.
Our goal was to create more platforms for female entrepreneurs and technology specialists to be heard – with a target of a 50% gender split for our speakers and mentors.
While we did make improvements, it was challenging. Last year women made up 35% of our panellists on Cyber-Duck webinars (up from 26% in 2022), 40% of our mentors for volunteer programmes, but only 20% of our speakers at external events.
Fundamentally, we don’t have enough women in our team - exactly in line with the UK average of 31% - and women are particularly underrepresented in our Development team. So even as we have flexible working, fertility and menopause policy and are a founding signatory to MotherBoard, the systemic issues still impact what we can achieve. For instance, we often find that there are zero applications from women for technical roles that we’re advertising.
So how can we help better influence change? And how do we break the bias in the digital and technology world?
Less tokenism, more action
One of the key areas that we wanted to improve upon was to focus on less ‘token’ action, and really drive proper change.
We have now signed-up for the Tech Talent Charter– joining 650 other organisations in the UK in our commitment to drive better inclusion. This commits us to:
- Continue promoting inclusive practices and hiring diverse talent.
- Supporting parents and carers who may require extended leave.
- Upskilling our staff and growing digital skills throughout the team.
- Giving back through external tech programmes.
This is just a small part of our commitment to diversity and inclusion within Cyber-Duck.
As well as this we will:
- Continue working with partners and organisations such as Teens in AI, Motherboard and BIMA, who help provide mentoring and opportunities to women and girls.
- Speak with female leaders in digital, innovation and entrepreneurship to better understand their stories, challenges and successes – something that we have started on our Digital Pond podcast with guest speakers Elena Sinel (Teens in AI), Anouk Agussol (Unleashed.Company) and Dr Elizabeth Shaw (1000 Black Voices).
- Providing more opportunities to our team to speak on subjects that they’re passionate about at webinars, panels, industry events etc.
The final say
To sign-off this article, I want to leave you with a message from our Content Lead, Jessica Graham:
"For me, making friends with women who worked in tech helped me to consider it as a realistic career option – they encouraged me to start learning about things like coding and UX through their enthusiasm for it. I feel like there is a strong sense of community among women in tech."
Cyber-Duck will continue to do everything we can to support this and #BreakTheBias together.