In today's society, social inclusion and parity are two major issues. For example, many business sectors are still predominantly male and the Tech sector is no different. Beside a real interest from women to join the industry, according to Euronews Next, the sector appears to be falling behind when it comes to recruit women and retain them. Because of this, for International Women's Day , we wanted to draw a portrait of the women in the tech sector (especially cybersecurity!) and shed light on several projects that honour women representation in the tech industry and encourage them to join the sector.
Is the technology sector more female-oriented than it seems? No.
Twenty three percent. According to Deloitte, this is the number of women represented in the technology sector as of 2020. Let's agree this number is far from the majority or even close to parity. We could easily ask why this figure is so low, when in her 2019 book “Les oubliées du numérique “(The Forgotten Women of the Digital World), Isabelle Collet, a computer scientist, teacher-researcher at the University of Geneva, highlights that in the 1980s, 40% of computer science degrees were awarded to women in Europe and the U.S. Yet, they now only reach around 25% It is difficult to understand why this is the case. Truth be told, history is full of women who have invented or worked on technological advances that are now part of our daily lives.
Did you know that the first modern computer invented in 1940 by Alan Turing was based on the work of Ada Lovelace, considered the world's first computer programmer? What if we told you that 1940s and 1950s movie star Hedy Lamarr also was a brilliant scientist? Her work, considered a "secret communication system" received a patent in 1942, inspiring the invention of WIFI, GPS and Bluetooth!
Since then, many women have conquered the tech industry and changed the face of our modern world.
More and more women are being attracted to the tech sector even though only 3% say it was their first choice. According to Nelly Polyzou, this could be due to a lack of information from the recruiters, or simply an opportunity to move into a job. Or possibly because of the lack of representation, this is why it is so important to show case. The example of our colleague, Sanne Spiessens, Vetting Manager for the US at GlobalSign, shows how obscure some aspects of the profession remain even for recruiters.
"I received an unexpected phone call from a recruitment agency for a screening officer position. At the time, most people guessed as well as I did what the role entailed, and that's pretty much what the recruiter explained to me. He said, "I know it sounds a bit obscure, and it's not something that a lot of people have prior experience in, but we think you'd make a good fit." After spending several years in microbiology labs, this seemed like an obvious change to me. "
This ease of changing job paths throughout their careers is perhaps the reason, the technology sector is the best choice for women.
The future of the industry will be female:
As we have explained, women have always been a part of the work force, but the reality is the proportion of women to men has fallen significantly. The 1990s were a key point in explaining this decline, and according to Isabelle Collet, the craze for IT and its rise made it a major stake for companies and they started to recruit men freshly graduated from universities. In the meantime the advent of personal computers, often exclusively marketed toward fathers and sons (like this ad for the computer Apple II in 1985) or the 80’s-90’s pop with movies like Weird Science, or War Games, idolising the image of the awkward geek boy genius using tech to save the world and win the girl, did probably not help attracting women toward the Tech industry.
However, the technology industry, now, seems to be closing the gender gap. The Deloitte Global study also shows that the gender gap is reducing slowly, predicting that 25% of the sector will be female by the end of this year.
In addition, the report forecasts that leading technology companies will reach an average of almost 33% women in their total workforce by year's end, an increase of two percent from 2019 (Figure 1).
The number of women in technology-related positions will also increase, although it tends to lag behind the overall share of women by about eight percent.
We also see that women in the top eight tech companies (Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet Inc, Amazon, Meta) have grown 238% faster than men ! Three women from these companies are in the top 15 most powerful women in tech (Forbes ranking): Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, Meg Whitman, CEO of HP (14th) and Susan Wojciki, CEO of YouTube (15th).
But what is rather satisfying is that the ranking highlights companies such as Girls Who Code, founded by Reshma Saujani, which aims to empower women through technology, and GoldieBox, founded by Debbie Sterling, which promotes engineering and construction toys for girls. Innovations like these are more than welcome at a time when the fight against the gender gap is even more prevalent.
Closing the gender gap is important in the tech world. But there are still many obstacles. The best way to encourage women to join the tech sector will undoubtedly be through information, career guidance and plenty of representation
Encouraging more women to join the tech sector
While the proportion of women in the sector is generally increasing, what can be done to encourage more of them to join the industry and, above all, what can be done to encourage them to follow the career path?
In recent years, many projects and associations have been set up to advise and support women in their careers.
This starts at university, with programmes encouraging young female students to join STEM professions. Four major European universities (Canterbury Christ Church University in England, BRNO University of Technology in the Czech Republic, ETH University in Zurich, and Tampere University in Finland) have invested in science and technology-related programmes and now have a 35% female graduation rate.
“It's an excellent time to start working in this exciting and critical job sector. There are endless opportunities to learn, grow and make an impact!” Cally Fritsch, Director of RPM and Product Marketing at GlobalSign.
To support women looking at careers in the cybersecurity industry, the association "WiCys - Women in cybersecurity" is considered an excellent source for guidance. Established in 2012, WICys describes themselves as "a global community of women, allies and advocates, we strive to bring together talented women to celebrate and encourage their passion and drive for cybersecurity. We bring together local communities of aspiring and successful women cybersecurity professionals from around the world to collaborate, share knowledge, network, and mentor. We create opportunities through professional development programmes, conferences, job fairs".
The programme provides several initiatives for women to receive career training, connect with other women around the world, as well as meet and learn from mentors. The European Union has also launched its own recruitment programme "Women TechEU" described as "a new EU programme to support female-led high-tech start-ups and help them become the high-tech champions of tomorrow."
Other initiatives are also organised through the power of social media. To celebrate International Women's Day 2022, the #breakthebias campaign has been created. Using the hashtag breakthebias, IWD imagines a world of equality, free from bias, stereotypes and discrimination and invites people to mobilise on social networks on the 8 of March 2022 by celebrating women's successes and increasing their visibility, while denouncing inequalities. IWD is another formidable organization aiming to celebrate women’s achievement and accelerate gender parity. Currently they are helping women in different industries such as Technology, Ecology, Creative Arts, or Sports, to create a better environment in the workplace and our society.
However, wouldn't the best way for a better inclusion of women in the Tech sector be through better integration? Meeting those meaningful people who will encourage and motivate you to progress in your career?? GlobalSign's Lila Kee, who heads up product management, and is also the General Manager for the Americas, has experienced this first-hand:
"It's an exciting, ever-changing field where you will always be challenged to develop and contribute. (I was lucky enough to be able to work with many smart, hard-working women who supported each other at a time when equal opportunities and progressive working environments were still emerging in many areas, especially if you were a working mother). I was, and still am, inspired by women who not only thrive in the exciting field of cybersecurity, but who find time to support each other. My recommendation is, if you want a career in cybersecurity, go for it!"
The technology sector is booming, and women are making progress. They are leaders, mentors and supporters, breaking stereotypes along the way. Any initiative is crucial today to raise awareness on the fact that women are still discriminated against today, both in terms of salaries and in terms of promotions and even if it's encouraging to see all the progress they have made, we are still a long way from the world imagined by IWD. But every initiative or project makes thing goes forward and all together we can still #breakthebias. GlobalSign is very encouraged by this progress, and we embrace all the women who contributed to our company's success!