The code to addressing tech's gender imbalance


The code to addressing tech's gender imbalance

By Rama Varsani and Tash Dubrovska

As women working in the tech sector, we’ve often found ourselves to be the only females in a meeting room during our careers. At times, this can feel lonely and somewhat intimidating, bringing about feelings of not belonging and causing imposter syndrome.

We’re not the only ones facing this challenge, with a lack of female representation being prolific in the tech sector. Despite 50% of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) students being female, only 1 in 5 go on to secure top science and tech jobs, according to a 2019 global study by the University of Michigan.

Addressing the gender imbalance is important from a diversity, innovation, and performance perspective. Last year, a McKinsey research report, ’Diversity Wins’, revealed that companies with gender diverse executive teams are 25% more likely to experience above average levels of profitability. It’s also hugely important from the point of view of opening up new talent pools that technology companies need in order to address the shortage of qualified people.

Busting some common myths

A career in the technology sector, particularly the role of a software developer or solution consultant, can be intimidating to some women considering a career change or a new study programme. Yet they are usually not familiar with the breadth of roles available to them, many of which require a mix of technical and soft skills.

Many will simply not know any other female friends or peers who have succeeded in this market, adding to the sector’s reputation of inaccessibility. We ourselves have lacked the role models that would inspire us to pursue a career in IT.

This experience, coupled with our desire to give something back to the community, led ServiceNow to volunteer for Code First Girls, a non-profit charity organisation that believes ‘tech shouldn't just be a boys club’.

Reaching out to female talent

30 females registered for the 8 week training course– one of Code First Girls’ free coding courses for women – where they gained the knowledge, advice, and support they needed to consider a career in tech.

It was hugely rewarding for us to see them acquire new skills and bring their creative ideas to life. For many, the course was their first step towards a career change — be it a tech role or a role in a related discipline, such as UX, design, or technical writing, where an understanding of coding and development is highly useful.

Code First Girls does a fantastic job in reaching out to women from all walks of life, at all stages of their careers – and we were pleased to see that a lot of learners on the course came from the BAME community.

If we are to truly drive change in the sector we must continue raising awareness of the growing opportunities in the digital economy, reaching out to new and diverse groups of people, and embracing the talent that resides there.

While Code First Girls courses used to be offered primarily to London-based students due to the face-to-face delivery, the rapid acceptance of remote learning in 2020 has enabled us to welcome women from across the UK, further expanding the reach and accessibility of our initiative.

Training the talent pool

A shortage of talent and skills in the industry is an undisputed challenge for most tech companies, including ServiceNow. We’re a fast-growing business and always want to find people to join our diverse workforce and contribute to our combined success.

Our collaboration with Code First Girls helps ServiceNow address the skills gap by tapping into previously uncovered groups of talent and equipping them with digital skills for the future through comprehensive training programmes.

Many of the women completing the Code First Girls course were interested in exploring what’s next. Some of the avenues open to them are the ServiceNow Next Gen programme — designed to help take participants into employment — and the ServiceNow Early in Careers programme for graduates, giving them all a way ahead in their career path in technology.

Breaking down barriers

As volunteers for Code First Girls, we’ve learnt a lot too. We’ve developed our communication skills, organizational skills and gained more confidence in presenting in front of an audience.

The support from our ServiceNow volunteers has been fantastic. John Perks and Chris Henson have been great male ambassadors supporting this initiative. It has helped us bridge some of the company ‘silos’ we sometimes find ourselves working in.

Our goal now is to make sure more ServiceNow volunteers join our ranks to empower more people from all walks of life to consider a job in a growing sector that offers a rewarding career path.

We don’t want to be the only females in the meeting room in the future. That’s why we’ll be continuing with our efforts to inspire new and diverse generations of tech leaders. I would like to take this opportunity to invite our partners and customers to join forces with us to drive real – and lasting – change in the industry.

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