International Women's Day 2024: Celebrating Women in Tech

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Women in tech international women's day

While being one of the most innovative and forward-thinking industries in the world, the tech industry is widely known to grapple with a gender gap. 

Women make up nearly half the global workforce, but they hold only around 27% of jobs in the tech sector and just 10% of CEOs and senior leadership positions.  

Women in science technology science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) earn on average $15, 000 less than their male counterparts, while Latina and Black women face a further reduction of over $8000. When organisations fail to promote gender equality across their organization they miss out on diverse thinking and fresh approaches critical to such a quickly evolving industry. 

The scarcity of representation of women in leadership positions can create a barrier for aspiring professionals too. If women don’t have role models or mentors it can be difficult to envision their career progression.

Gradually, the tech industry is shifting to become more gender inclusive. At the forefront of this shift are several influential women at the forefront of innovation and change across the industry.

In this article, we’re celebrating women in tech who are leaving their mark across various critical sectors including data, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and financial technology (Fintech).

Women in Data

Women make substantial contributions to the data field but they continue to remain under-represented, with male data analysts and scientists currently outnumbering their female colleagues roughly four to one.

What was once a promising trend towards gender equality in data science has taken a concerning turn. While women's representation in the field saw a positive rise from 26% in 2015 to 31% in 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately impacted female professionals. The percentage of women in data plummeted to 20% in 2020. Although there was a slight recovery to 25% in 2023, we're still behind where we were pre-pandemic.

Rosin McCarthy, founder of Women in Data, told EM360Tech that International Women’s Day is crucial for spotlighting the outstanding achievements of women in the data space rather than just being a celebration of women.  

"Whilst I love all things Women's History Month and IWD, it’s vital the elevation and celebration of women, is not just one month or one day a year!”

We need our allies and supporters to join us in spotlighting brilliant women year-round. There are many interventions required to achieve gender parity and equity in tech, but a simple one we can all take responsibility for is to overtly showcase incredible women and the work they do. Role modelling has such an impact on career progression and its value is underestimated!"

 To all all the women today, be fearless and go for it every day of the year!

Susan Walsh, Founder of the Classification Guru 

Women in Cybersecurity

While the number of women in cybersecurity is rising, there remains a notable disparity between the number of women compared to the number of men in the industry. 

In 2022, women comprised 25% of the global cybersecurity workforce, a positive shift from 20% in 2019 and 10% in 2013. Research firm Cybersecurity Ventures predicts even further growth over the next five years, with women projected to reach 30% and 35% of the industry by 2025 and 2031.

Still, Linh Lam, Chief Information Officer at the mobile master data management (MDM) company Jamf, said there’s still a long way to go in bridging the cyber gender gap.

“Diversity in thought and inclusion is so important within organisations, therefore, we should be encouraging more women into the tech/cybersecurity industry. There are still plenty of barriers for women – for example when I was running multi-million dollar global programmes, I was still mistaken for a junior team member or spoken over,” Linh told Em360Tech. 

“As a woman in the tech industry, it’s so important to bet on yourself. Everyone has their own unique skills and values, and you have to start somewhere, so don’t let a tech career intimidate you. Keep an open mind and be brave enough to follow your curiosity.” Lam advised fellow women in the tech industry at the start of their careers.

“The entire tech industry needs to do more to expose young girls to science, technology and the fun career opportunities in tech, so they know it’s not just a possibility but a reality.” She added, focussing on the need for organisations to reassess their hiring and retainment practices. 

Adela Racibor, Channel Manager at the cybersecurity firm WithSecure, agrees that as a society we need to do more to encourage women to pursue careers in cybersecurity. She told EM360Tech that the lack of women in the space may not be a problem of openness, but an issue about the number of women applying for jobs in cyber. 

“Bringing more women into the tech industry isn’t a problem of openness but more with the number of women actually applying to jobs. LinkedIn’s own research showed women are more likely to move laterally than apply for more senior positions and tend to respond to fewer job adverts in general.”

Still, Adela called for tech companies to do more to give women the flexibility they need to allow women in cyber to progress in their careers. 

“Women are more likely to be primary caregivers to other family members and simply choose not to apply to a more demanding role out of pragmatism. Organisations need to give women flexibility so that they can thrive in both their professional and personal lives. We need to encourage female speakers to talk about their experiences of being a human in tech, not just their experiences as a woman. By highlighting the differences, we risk strengthening divisions.”

Dr Emma Walker, Principal Workforce Exercising SME at Immersive Labs, also called for organisations and the cybersecurity community to further encourage women to pursue a career in cyber. 

“How we give women the confidence at all stages of their lives to think, and even try, a career in cyber is one of the most important questions for the cyber industry. “Too often my points were disregarded, and I was talked over. Even at cyber events, I’ve been mistaken for a waitstaff rather than an academic. This isn’t right and shouldn’t be accepted. 

Luckily, we now have made progress and there are initiatives such as ‘cyberfirst’, however, there is still more that can be done. Engaging with schools and universities, as well as apprenticeships for career options, is critical – give girls the chance to become involved and develop their interests and skills. Move away from traditional certifications and career paths that present barriers to entry and support people to upskill, change careers, and develop themselves at any stage of their lives. We should be opening doors, not closing them. 

“Also, businesses need to show they value women in their workforce from initial recruitment to continued retention, development and promotion. We should encourage positive and inclusive work cultures which support work-life balance, are not afraid to challenge stereotypes to head on, and proudly showcase the many female voices already in the industry.”

Women in AI 

Despite the rapidly evolving job market in artificial intelligence (AI), there remains a significant gender disparity, with AI startups founded by women making up just 2% of AI venture capital investment deals over the past ten years according to a report by according to a report from the Alan Turing Institute.

“The recent explosion in interest and investment in AI, especially generative AI, means that there is an urgent need for women and minorities to have equal access in the tech and venture space,” said Alan Turing Institute research fellow Dr Erin Young.

“Venture capital firms impact the business models of the startups in which they invest, and VCs tend to invest in companies that reflect their own networks and value systems, in turn shaping the technologies developed. Encouraging inclusion in the VC space can help promote responsible AI design, tackle AI biases and foster innovation.”

Sheila Flavell CBE, COO of FDM Group: said “Although the representation of women in tech has improved in recent years, it still remains shockingly low with only 28 per cent of jobs held by women.”

“The gender gap in tech has long been a problem and one that can’t be solved overnight. Businesses must strive to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace and empower women into leading tech roles - not only to improve diversity but to create a working culture that is better equipped to meet the needs of a diverse population.”   

“The growth of AI is already having a huge impact in the workplace, bringing new and exciting opportunities and demanding new skills to oversee its development and adoption. AI isn’t just about making jobs easier, but for creating entirely new opportunities altogether, and women should be front and centre of this area, plugging the AI skills gap.”

“I realised a long time ago that you can be anything if you put your mind to it. Women must believe in themselves. Self-doubt and imposter syndrome are common feelings among women, but every experience is a learning opportunity. Embrace mistakes as lessons learnt and focus on moving forward, instead of dwelling on the past.”

Women in FinTech

Despite progress in recent years, the financial services (Fintech) industry still faces a significant gender gap with women holding only 39% of board director positions.  

Anna Porra, Head of Market Development and Planning at Soldo, told EM360Tech that is crucial the FinTech space promotes inclusivity to harness innovation across the space. 

“Inclusivity fosters innovation and creativity which has been at the centre of the positive disruption we’ve seen in financial services over the past decade. Prioritising diversity not only advances individual careers but also bolsters overall economic growth by tapping into the full spectrum of talent. With the economic landscape looking gloomy, fintechs are doing all they can to stand out from the crowd. The ones that will, are investing both time and money in women – creating diverse workplaces that truly meet customer needs,” Anna said. 

“Research has continually proven that diversity benefits businesses, and in the competitive landscape of fintech, capturing talent and embracing a wide set of skills is not just a matter of social justice but a strategy for sustained success,” she added.

Sarah Spoja, Chief Financial Officer at Tipalti, told EM360tech that the lack of CFOs across the tech space demonstrates the need for fundamental changes to society starting with education.

“Women made up just 16% of CFOs last year. While this figure has almost doubled over the past ten years, the percentages of women at the top remain too low. To combat the death of opportunities for female finance talent and inspire the next generation of leaders, we must create a more dynamic environment that embraces modernisation

through technology to make the career more attractive to young talent, and continue to mentor our emerging talent through programs that showcase opportunities for their careers to grow across finance and accounting.” Spoja told us.

“The finance office itself has evolved significantly in recent years. Traditionally, more junior roles were focused on compliance and control – in which graduates were led by a conventional ‘numbers CFO’. However, with the ongoing digital transformation of businesses and their increasing dependence on technology to shape strategic decisions, the dynamics of finance roles are shifting. Automation has played a pivotal role in this transformation by streamlining manual and mundane tasks, thereby freeing up time for young talent to engage in more strategic and value-added activities.” she added.

Emma Steeley, CEO of Aro, agreed that fundamental changes across the FinTech space are crucial to promote gender equality. She told EM360Tech that many credit systems still rely on traditional bureau data, leading to gender biases and overall disadvantages for women.

“If we go back to the 1980s, it was commonplace for lenders to demand the signature or consent of a husband or male relative when a woman, married or unmarried, applied for credit. This practice was rooted in historical gender biases and societal norms that considered women as financially irresponsible and dependent on men.”

“Many credit scoring systems continue to rely heavily on traditional bureau data, which may disadvantage individuals, especially women. This discrepancy may stem from the persisting gender pay gap meaning women have less financial stability and consequently, fewer opportunities to secure the credit they need.”

“However, there is an urgent need for a renewed focus on open banking and a phasing out of standardised bureau data to foster a more inclusive and fair credit system, that doesn’t disadvantage women who lack extensive credit histories.”

Nicole Olbe, Managing Director of UK & Ireland at the FinTech firm Adyen, warned that the FinTech space needs to “stop conforming to society’s expectations of ambition.”

“While I have been lucky enough to work alongside some fantastic allies, reflecting on my earlier career there were some difficult days in the office. A case of a ‘fake it until you make it’ mentality, turning up to meetings in a power suit and bringing more of what I felt was a ‘male energy’. It took time to embrace what I truly believe is ambition and therefore success.”

Nicole also reflected on her time as a mother in the FinTech space, encouraging women – and mothers – to be ambitious in their career despite the challenges they face. 

“Becoming a mother was an impactful moment in my career and was when I reevaluated what ambition means to me.”

I’m a mother first and while I’m also driven by a mission to deliver innovative payment solutions, I’m acutely aware of my role in the future and being part of a world that serves a diverse population for the better. We’re in a period of redefining work and how it fits into all our other identifiers. You can still be ambitious while having other priorities.”

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