Tech diversity champions Code First Girls have teamed up with Tech Talent Charter (TTC), a government-supported group of over 775 leading UK businesses and organisations, to identify and provide recommendations to address the UK’s tech talent shortage and diversity crisis.
The recommendations come as it is revealed that half of women in tech drop out by the age of 35, adding to worries of a growing digital skills and gender gap.
In their collaborative report, Code First Girls and TTC have drawn on data from the largest community of qualified female software engineers and employees of TTC businesses across the UK including Gymshark, the Scottish Government, GCHQ, Transport for London, and Shell.
According to Microsoft, globally, there will be 149 million new jobs in software, data, AI, machine learning and cyber by 2025. UNESCO tells us that by the same year, there will be 5.8 million newly skilled graduates qualified for these roles, 20% of which will be women. We therefore look to a near future where globally there will be one qualified woman for every 128 roles in technology.
With maternity leave, double standards between men and women, and family-life balance found to be key blockers for female progression, top recommendations to retain women in tech include flexible working, enhanced parental leave policies, and reproductive healthcare, such as benefits for infertility disease, menstrual health and menopause.
Regarding her decision to leave the workplace, Margaret Black, A Code First Girls Ambassador, commented: “My reasons for leaving the workplace have been due to being offered a more comprehensive package that suits the needs of myself and my family better. I’ve often found that in male-dominated companies, a lot of the benefits around parental leave are very sparse, and leave new parents at a disadvantage.”
In particular, flexible working policies have been shown to have a positive impact on attracting and retaining talent.
Offering job flexibility upfront in job ads has been shown to increase the volume of applicants by 30% – as well as increasing the proportion of female applicants. When analysing TTC’s data of over 210,000 tech employees in the UK, 88% of tech employers reported offering flexible hours, with other flexible work options including part-time working, job sharing, condensed hours and remote working. Other examples of policies offered by tech companies include a 4-day working week during the summer and uncapped holiday.
Talking to flexible policies, Emma Stewart, CEO at Timewise said: “Trying to attract diverse talent without offering flexible working is like going fishing without a net.
“To ensure diverse and inclusive workplaces, employers need to offer flexible working from day one; consider all forms of flexible working (not just hybrid); and to make sure that their approach is fair to all workers”.
Commenting on the latest report, Anna Brailsford, CEO of Code First Girls said: “It is no secret that the tech industry has for too long been a boy’s club – but the dial is shifting and we want to accelerate that progress. With the UK continuing to suffer from a glaring skills gap, improving family leave and reproductive healthcare policies should be a first step to help retain women in this vital industry.
“To get women into the industry – and crucially keep them there – we cannot ignore their needs. Through these recommendations, we hope that the industry can speed up their efforts to narrow the gender inequality gap and bring the tech industry into the 21st century.”
Lexie Papaspyrou, Co-COO at Tech Talent Charter said: “If we are to make a difference in the fight for better gender diversity in tech, we must go beyond “just hire more women”. Tech workers are looking for companies that understand their desires around career development, flexibility, work-life balance, family-forming, wellbeing and inclusion.
“We have a fantastic opportunity to grow the tech talent pipeline by tapping into new sources of talent and harnessing the skills already available, but businesses need to be informed on what this looks like in practice for their talent strategy. Our new report sets the bar for what it takes to attract, develop and retain women in tech, based on the efforts of hundreds of companies going through these challenges right now.”