Diversity in Digital

Written by Naomi Timperley, Co-founder of Tech North Advocates

There is most definitely a gender gap in the tech sector, not only in the UK but worldwide. I think there are many reasons for this: role models matter; parents’ attitudes matter; teachers also have a positive impact on girls. The endless attention paid to male tech stars isn’t going to change how girls feel about tech. What will inspire them are the stories of women like mathematician and computer programmer Ada Lovelace, and women succeeding now in the industry. We have to tell stories that will interest girls to inspire them.

Girls are being left out of the conversation when it comes to technology. They’re led to think tech is insular and antisocial, and they’re never given a chance to correct those perceptions. This pattern might start in our homes, but it has serious implications for our economy and for women at large. If women don’t participate in tech, they are losing the chance to influence the largest economic and social change of this century. Girls need to seek tech in their surroundings and understand that people have created that tech. They can create tech.

Only 13 per cent of the most powerful people in venture capital are female according to new figures, which reveal a shocking lack of women at the top level of tech investment, which doesn’t help the gender gap! Two thirds of nearly VC firms in the UK – which collectively invested nearly $5bn into startups last year – have not a single woman decision maker at partner level or equivalent. The UK fared slightly better than the US, however, where Silicon Valley is often accused of having a “bro” culture. Even fewer women – 11 per cent – were found at the top level of venture capital across the pond.

Women are the world’s most powerful consumers, and their impact on the economy is growing every year. What’s more, women are strong tech users, outnumbering men on all major social media sites (except LinkedIn), for instance. It’s safe to say that women are spending at least a sizeable chunk of their purchasing power on tech products. So it makes sense to look at who’s designing them. Only 17% of Google’s engineers, 15% of Facebook’s, and 10% of Twitter’s are women. The consequences for tech products designed predominantly by men might not be so dire, but the point remains: Bringing more women into research, design, and development can lead to better products and user experience for the people who are actually going to buy and use them.

No matter who you are or where you work, the gender gap in tech already impacts you. We need to start closing it together.

With the rise of code clubs such as Liverpool and Manchester Girl Geeks girls are slowly coming to realisation that tech is cool and not just for geeks. The attention to coding has popularised computer science among boys, but it hasn’t moved the needle with girls quite yet.

See some good statistics here.

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