By Kim Nilsson, CEO
As CEO of , I have met the expected and usual challenges of establishing a new business. From cementing a reputation to promoting our services, I understand all too well the myriad of considerations, obstacles and tasks that must be completed in order to be a successful start-up.
After completing my PhD in Astrophysics I decided to tread a path away from academia and venture to the unknown. It was here that I met my fellow co-founder and COO Jason Muller and together we created Pivigo. While there have been many challenges in growing the business, the sort of problems that all startups face, the one that never put me off from this daunting journey was the fact that I am a woman, and to be honest why should it? The stereotypes of technology roles mean that many people that I have met with would expect a male to be at the helm of Pivigo. Unfortunately there are still negative preconceptions around women in business, and also in the world of academia. It has taken me several years of hard work to earn a certain level of respect in the industry, and to prove that I can do business as well as anyone in this industry.
On International Women’s Day, I’d like to consider women in tech, why women are so underrepresented in the biggest firms in this industry, and the positive steps we can all take to address this.
Is the potential for more women in tech jobs improving?
It’s undoubtedly still more difficult for a woman to enter a technical role than a man and there are a number of gender specific obstacles that are yet to be conquered but the situation is certainly getting better.
With greater global awareness of the gender unbalanced workforce in such fields, more and more major firms are taking proactive steps to encourage women to apply for jobs at all levels and to hold them.
Thanks to internationally recognised days such as International Women’s Day and Ada Lovelace Day, men and women of all major nations are recognising the importance of female inclusion in all industries as well as the significant achievements of women in technological fields. What’s more, schemes such as those run by companies like are breaking barriers from the earliest ages, ensuring that an enthusiasm for technology and skills are instilled in youngsters and that gender barriers are removed for future generations. Through their efforts to highlight the gender disparity in tech jobs, these movements are ensuring that people are educated, evoked and moved to bring change, both for personal reward and for a global moral cause.
Are women capable of the same levels of success in male dominated roles?
There is a general opinion that women are less capable in male dominated industries and until women are afforded the opportunity to prove themselves, this is not likely to change quickly. It’s an archaic viewpoint that a woman would not be able to understand the intricacies of a tech role like a male worker and despite graduating from the same university courses, irrespective of their grades and experience, female tech employees are often challenged on their knowledge, capabilities, understanding and future plans more than a male applicant for the same position would be. This is just one of the reasons that, as reported by , only 18 percent of undergraduate computer science degrees and 26 percent of computing jobs are held by women.
So how can we overcome these historical patriarchal obstacles for women who want to enter tech roles or indeed, any position in a male dominated field? There are some actions that are already in full motion and plenty of steps that business owners, potential employees, and actually all of us, can take.
As with so many careers, passion and interest is ignited from a young age and for this reason, the West is encouraging children of both genders to use, understand and enjoy computers, technology and science from their earliest school years. It is hoped that the more girls who see women participating in these activities and positions, the greater the next generation of female tech workers will be. By abolishing the education system’s deliverance of some subjects as gender specific, it is hoped that each child will follow a more natural path into the careers that they are skilled and interested in.
The Empathy Index
For several years, campaigning agencies such as have worked to make jobs in technology more accessible for women. The agency was established in 2010 and aimed to give support to female workers who wanted to enter male dominated professions. The agency argues that gender is not at the heart of the obstacles for women and instead, empathy is the greatest barrier. measures the empathy levels of technology firms and their customers and helps to open up better channels of communication, understanding and rapport with the aim of eliminating the awareness of gender in such positions. The agency are proud to boast that the top 10 firms in their Empathy Index increased their capitalisation by more than double that of the bottom 10 companies and highlight that this means that “more empathy means more profit but also happier, more loyal staff”.
Remuneration and Promotion
Several surveys and research programmes throughout the world have highlighted that women who work in male dominated positions earn less and have a much smaller chance of gaining promotion that their male counterparts. Industry insights firm, highlight that in the US, senior female computer tech managers are paid just 87 cents to the dollar that their male equivalents are paid. Once this unjust and unreasonable pay and promotion consideration is overcome, women will feel more secure and equally as rewarded for their efforts in a number of currently male orientated industries.
Flexible Work Culture
Expert recruitment firms such as have carried out extensive research to understand why women make up such a small percentage of those in the top roles for male dominated industries such as technology and computing when females make up 60% of university graduates. There research has determined that the most significant concern for women (and actually, male employees too) was cultural considerations. A firm who recognised the domestic roles of their staff and allowed a greater home/work balance was more likely to retain the most qualified and successful employees. Firms who acknowledge the demands placed on staff, particularly women in their roles as mothers, and who allowed for a greater balance without prohibiting promotions prospects or undermining female significance were actually likely to see productivity increase by up to 25% across the board.
These changes won’t happen overnight, and some of the research from some of the world’s biggest tech firms shows there is , but cumulatively they will make a difference. We all have the power to do something about it – individuals, businesses, governments. At Pivigo, both Jason and I actively promote Women in Tech and Diversity in Tech. We strive for equality and we urge everyone to be part of the change.