The gender gap that exists across the tech industry, resulting from the low number of girls choosing STEM subjects and then ICT careers as well as the low number of women working in the industry, but also present at Executive and Board level, is increasingly acknowledged as an issue that needs to be tackled in a systematic manner both by the public and private sectors and policy makers.
In addition to this, there is a growing sense of urgency to accelerate the reduction of this gap due to the technologic development that it is taking place and how it affects all aspects of our society and daily life. Technology-based products and services should not be scoped, developed and delivered based on the perspective of only half of the population. The development of artificial intelligence, robotics and big data connected to IoT and new industrial, working and living environments require more inclusive and diverse teams, as otherwise this will have strong negative consequences in society at large.
Many events and initiatives have already been developed to tackle the existing gender gap within the tech industry. However, the results have often been limited due to the lack of continuity of these programmes and emphasis in areas that have a limited capacity to create impact at a significant scale. Moreover, in some countries like the USA, UK and even Spain, there has been a slow, but steadily decrease over the last decades of the number of females studying STEM subjects and entering the tech industry.
More needs to be done in order to encourage and support more girls & women to study, work and grow professionally in areas directly related to the development of technology.
This challenge looks for projects and digital solutions that have shown to contribute to the reduction of the gender gap within the tech industry and that can be replicable and scalable in a systematic manner. These can be data-driven HR solutions, mentorship and on the job apprenticeships programmes for female talent development, coding training programmes developed for females, among others.
The speed of tech development and its implications in the different aspects of modern life mean that, based on data provided by the World Economic Forum, 65% of the Primary level students will have jobs that do not exist today. But already in the next two years, there will be about 900,000 unfilled job vacancies due to the lack of workers with appropriate digital skills.
The existing gender gap within the ICT sector is a widespread problem, being transversal across the globe and within organizations of very distinct scale and complexity. Although the gender gap can be perceived in levels of access, how this access is done and with which objective, the main gap is actually within the industry. There are also socio-economic barriers that limit the entrance of women to this sector and discourage girls from an young age to pursue STEM interests and careers.
The European Commission report on “Women active in the ICT sector” found out that at European level, only 29 out of 1000 female graduates choose a computing related degree (in comparison to 95 of male), being this number substantially reduced to 4 when we talk about ICT. In addition to this, women tend to leave the sector throughout their careers meaning that only 9% of those that studied ICT careers still working in the field by the age of 45.
In Catalonia, based on the numbers provided by the Agency for the Quality of the Catalonian University System1, during the academic year of 2015-16, only 13% of the students enrolled in ICT degrees were female.
Research carried out by the European Commission has shown that having more women working in digital jobs could represent a GDP boost of €9 billion annual. Based on data produced by Barcelona City Council in 2015, only 1 in 3 workers working within the ICT sector is a female, so the opportunity for a more gender balanced sector is massive.
When it comes to executive positions, research carried out by the European Commission shows, that only 16% of these positions are occupied by women in the ICT sector, while at a global scale, 96% of the CEOs of ICT companies are men.
Furthermore, the ICT sector offers a great career opportunity in Barcelona, based on data collected by Barcelona Activa – it creates a lot more jobs than the average of sectors; 52,6% of its new vacancies are long-term; and the average salary is 25% higher than the average in the city.