Having women on boards enhances business performance. We’ve known that for years. So are there why so few women in tech?

In the FT last week, Susan Bowen, chair of the Women in Tech Council at TechUK wrote:
“Tech companies that fail to embrace diversity are doomed to fail (Experience counts for little in tech’s young dream). Businesses that are diverse in terms of gender, age and race are more likely to have access to problem-solvers who can empathise with a diverse customer base. To bolster the breadth of perspectives they have access to, tech companies need to get ahead of the skills gap and look to those returning to work or looking for a second career.”

Achieving gender parity can’t happen overnight, but here are five practical ways to drive towards a more diverse tech ecosystem:

  1. Spread the word about STEM. Never tell your daughters that maths is too hard or that you were terrible at it at school. Introduce them to women who have made it in science, engineering, technology and coding. Offer to speak at a local school. Share your experiences and ideas for change.
  2. Be clear with recruiters about your expectations of them. Make it very clear that they need to be sending through a good mix of backgrounds – gender, race, religion, sexuality, university, home town, experience. Clearly these elements aren’t always immediately obvious but a good recruiter will be asking the right questions and digging harder to find a diverse pool of candidates.
  3. Make your business appealing to mums. All male founders? Nobody taken maternity leave within your business yet? That doesn’t matter, now’s still a good time to work out a great policy. You’ll probably end up attracting some awesome women who wouldn’t have looked twice otherwise.
  4. Embed a supportive, open culture. You may have read Susan Fowler’s blog about the sexual harassment she experienced at Uber and winced. It underlined the need for a separation of powers. Employees need a number of places to turn should something go wrong, even in a small business. HR teams need autonomy and there must be a clear safeguarding procedure, plus a zero tolerance policy on sexual harassment.
  5. Reward diversity. Make diversity a target for managers who are hiring new employees. If managers’ bonuses are dependent on finding great people from all backgrounds, they’re much more likely to go further to diversify the workforce.

Moving the needle is tough and takes time. But changing the conversation, deepening candidate searches and putting family-friendly policies in place can begin today. We already know that businesses with women in senior positions perform better. Who wouldn’t want a piece of that?

Tabitha Brear
Equal Pay Advocacy