Women in tech: men must campaign for digital inclusion

Despite businesses trying to close the gender gap, it may surprise you that women still make up just 24% of digital/tech sector jobs worldwide. This under-representation of women implies a huge, untapped pool of expertise that restricts the development of “technology for good” (products and services that benefit society). This lack of diversity and inclusion is not something for women to address in isolation: men must play an active role to champion the role of women in the workplace.

Talent scarcity in the technology industry is well documented, and women are part of the solution. The number of female students at degree, master, and doctorate levels has grown steadily in Europe, but women are still under-represented in research and innovation. Furthermore, the share of women in the workforce is lowest in technology roles that are quickly growing, such as cloud, cybersecurity and DevOps. Currently, the percentage of women in tech roles in Europe is 28% but is predicted to decline to 21% by 2027.

Losing female talent

Boosting the number of women in ICT is a huge global opportunity to optimize skills potential and accelerate innovation. However, the technology industry is hemorrhaging females in its workforce. A recent survey found that 45% more women than men leave technology roles, and 50% leave the industry before age 35. This results in fewer women attaining leadership roles.

There are several reasons women quit the technology industry. Many are disillusioned by the management support and opportunities offered and inequality in pay. Others cite burnout. In addition, technology companies have traditionally been run by men, and there are few female role models. There has also been criticism of the lack of inclusivity in what has been referred to as a “bro culture,” which needs to be eradicated for good. Some women working in tech teams, for example, have reported they have experienced systemic sexism.

Most forward-thinking companies accept that creating an equitable and inclusive workplace is a leadership challenge. However, while men express confidence that progress is being made to encourage and retain women in the workplace and that the glass ceiling is broken, women share a different view. A recent Integrating Women Leaders Foundation report highlights this dichotomy. It found that while 77% of male executives believe they are active allies for gender equality in the organization, only 45% of women believe this to be true.

The situation is worrying. As well as the deepening skills issue, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) predicts that women will miss out on opportunities in the future if decisive action isn’t taken. It maintains that women could lose five jobs for every one job in this new fourth industrial revolution, compared to three jobs lost for every job won by men. To change this scenario, a level playing field must be created regarding enablers, such as education and information for women, says UNESCO.

And it isn’t just gender that is holding women back. Other parts of their identities include race, sexual orientation and disability. Women in these groups often experience even more barriers to advancement. Asian and black women are less likely to have allies on their teams, according to a study by McKinsey. Women with disabilities often have their competence undermined.

It is paramount that enterprises and co-workers are aware of this, so they can promote equity and inclusion for all women.

Nurturing women in technology

The business case for diversity and equality is stronger than ever. Research has shown that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity in their executive teams were 25% more likely to achieve above-average profitability than businesses sitting at the bottom. Yet there is much still to do to nurture the role of women in technology, and it’s down to both men and women to make it happen.

I firmly believe that men must play an active role to ensure women have equal opportunities to progress their careers in the tech industry.

From an individual perspective, men need to use their privilege to champion women where possible, supporting and encouraging them to lead, enhancing networking, mentoring talent and actively fostering a more diverse workplace where women have an active role in decision making. From an organizational perspective, companies must commit to a holistic diversity, equity and inclusion strategy and ensure it is adhered to from the top down. To measure this, it is paramount to put metrics in place to track the success of diversity programs.

Here at Orange Business, we have 29.7% women in the workplace, but we know we can do better. We believe that gender parity in all job lines and levels drives success in the company’s economic performance, innovation and employee well-being.

My mission is to ensure that we make diversity everyone’s responsibility through each stage of the recruitment process and by opening exciting career paths with opportunities for reskilling and upskilling. This is how we will meet our target to achieve 33% women in our workforce with a 20% increase in the number of tech roles to be filled by women by 2025.

Our commitment to promoting gender diversity is embedded within our data-driven recruitment process because we work on the principle of “what gets measured, gets done.” Our recruiters and managers have made a conscious effort to increase the number of women interviewed for technical roles by approximately 150%. This means that the percentage of women hired in 2022 is now close to 30% and in parallel, our main focus is to increase the number of women in tech and management roles.

The acquisition of digital skills demands a change in mindset. As such, the Orange Foundation is actively working to promote the inclusion of women in the digital sector and supporting them in their personal and professional lives in twenty-three countries across Europe and Africa.

Gender diversity is more than a tick-box exercise

There is much talk about gender diversity, but the figures speak for themselves. Not enough action is being taken to attract and retain women in the technology industry. Gender diversity requires a total, long-term commitment. The benefits, however, are many – including a more comprehensive talent pool, enhanced innovation and improved collaboration. All of which leads to greater productivity.

Find out more about how the diverse global community at Orange Business encourages individuality and imagination here.

Laurent Aufils
Laurent Aufils

Laurent Aufils is Head of Human Resources & Employee Experience at Orange Business. Previously, he held senior roles in the field of strategy, transformation, human resources, governance, and finance and has extensive experience in managing complex projects within dynamic international environments in mainland Europe, the U.S. and the UK. He is a graduate from Bentley University, HEC, University of California at Berkeley, and NEOMA Business School. In his spare time, Laurent likes to enjoy the simple moments in life with his family, walking in the country side, cooking and ... eating good food.