Wanna know more about data science? Make sure to check out my events and my webinar What it's like to be a data scientist and What’s the best way to become a data scientist !

By Yasmin Chamchoun

Even though women hold 47% of the work force in the UK, according to a recent Tech Nation report, only 19% of women are tech workers. What is more, 77% of tech director roles are fulfilled by men whereas only a mere 23% of women hold tech directors’ positions.

So why are there so little women that work in tech or hold higher positions in the field, in comparison to their male counterparts?

The reason for this may be related to the fact when women enter the field, a significant percentage of them don’t actually end up staying long enough in order to progress to the senior roles. Reasons for this vary, but mainly point to the limited support available from management as well as the lack of advancement opportunities.

Capital One Women in Technology Survey revealed some interesting statistics regarding women who have left their careers in the tech industry. The survey was conducted by the data company YouGov and was based on 250 women who have stayed in their tech careers eight years or longer and attained senior roles, in comparison to the experiences of 200 women who left the industry after three or more years.

The study found that from the 200 women surveyed who had left their tech jobs, 23% mentioned weak management support, 22% said not enough work-life balance and 20% cited the lack of opportunities. All these were amongst the conclusive reasoning for their departure.

Even the 250 women who had remained in their long-standing tech careers highlighted some hindrances in their jobs. Seventy-three percent of these women had thought about leaving their positions due to obstacles such as limited opportunity for advancement (27%), unfair compensation compared with peers (25%) and little support from management (22%).

The report also shared five tips in order to encourage women to take on jobs in the tech space as well as remain dedicated in the field and they are:

  1. Give women challenging and rewarding work with opportunities for advancement.
  2. Make sure the right training is available at the right time for female employees.
  3. Provide women with work-life balance and fair pay.
  4. Encourage mentorship, peer networks, and social connections specifically for women.
  5. Support women in finding and deepening their sense of purpose.

We had the opportunity to interview four women leaders in the tech industry who have shared their take on this subject:

Sarah Barnes-Humphrey, Founder and Host of let’s Talk Supply Chain and CEO of Shipz

   

1. Why do you think so few women enter data science/AI/tech professions?

“They have a hard time seeing people like them in these roles and I also think they may or may not know what the possibilities can be. It’s up to all of us to show through our social media how amazing roles in data science/AI and tech can be fun, creative, energizing and can be a huge part of a successful career.”

2. Why do you think once they enter these professions, many women leave after a short period of time?

“As much opportunity as there is in these industries –  It’s hard, it is competitive, there is self doubt, there isn’t a lot of flexibility when it comes to career and personal life  so that makes it very challenging for women to really see themselves in a career long term.”

3. What interventions do you think are needed in order to inspire and empower more women to work in the tech space?

“Be Visible, be you, say yes to speaking engagements, speak to students when you can, mentor, speak to the C-Suite about pathways to success for the women in your organization, promote yourself and other women in your space. Allies lean in to understand and work together in finding ways to support diversity and inclusion, open up safe spaces. Share resources like our podcast about diversity and inclusion called Blended

Sarah Andrew Wilson, Chief Content Officer http://Matchbox.io

 

  1. Why do you think so few women enter data science / AI / tech professions?

“It’s easier for people to envision themselves in a role when they see others like themselves in a similar role. If girls don’t see a lot of women in tech, they’ll think it’s not for them. Even though the 19th century mathematician Ada Lovelace is considered the world’s first computer programmer, her legacy isn’t as strong as, say, Steve Jobs because at the time Ada wrote her algorithm, women traditionally didn’t hold jobs. There weren’t scores of women following in her footsteps, and there wasn’t a generation of girls looking up to her, because society told them to stay home. Thankfully this is changing. The more women that enter tech and advance to more visible positions, the more girls will take note and start to envision themselves in those positions.”

  1. Why do you think once they enter these professions, many women leave after a short period of time?

“If women are entering these professions and leaving, I would want to look at pay equity — are they being paid the same as others with similar experience? — and I would want to look at support systems. Are women’s voices being heard and listened to? When a meeting is held, who is speaking and whose voices are being echoed by the group? Is the input provided by women valued in the company as much as others? And are women promoted at the same rate as others?”

  1. What interventions do you think are needed in order to inspire and empower more women to work in AI / data science / tech?

“There are a lot of organizations doing amazing work to help. I travelled to Sri Lanka a few years ago and visited a tech incubator, where they held free after-school programming classes specifically for girls to encourage more girls to enter the field. This is happening more and more around the world, with organizations like Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code. It’s important at the adult level, too. In my field of Voice AI, Women in Voice is a terrific organization that supports and promotes the work by women who are in the field. Overall, visibility is key. Show people the path and they’ll realize it’s been there all along.”

Lisa Allen, Head Of Consultancy for Data Programmes, Open Data Institute and Author of The Little Book of Data

 

  1. Why do you think so few women enter data science/AI/tech professions?

“This is difficult to answer. I think there are many reasons. Starting with girls not studying the sciences or computer science at school. I know from my personal experience that there are very few girls in my son’s computer science GCSE class. This is disappointing to see girls disengaging at this early stage and it would be great to see more to tackle this.

Recruitment is another area. How we advertise and recruit for these positions is another challenge. These jobs are not appealing to women in the adverts. As an industry, we need to look at our recruitment processes end to end to ensure we are not bringing in bias and we are appealing to diverse candidates looking at the language we use in the adverts and how we recruit.”

  1. Why do you think once they enter these professions, many women leave after a short period of time? 

“Another difficult question and difficult for me to answer as I’ve stayed in the data profession. Another possibility could be the lack of diversity. With so few women in the profession, it’s hard to get a sense of belonging for some, making it difficult to get your voice heard. But I have definitely seen an increasing number of women since I first started. In fact, at the Open Data Institute where I am now, we have an equal gender balance.”

  1. What interventions do you think are needed in order to inspire and empower more women to work in the tech space?

“I’d love to see more work with schools and encouraging girls into the profession, showing them the art of the possible and what amazing careers they could have.

I think workplaces need to change too. Senior leaders need to take diversity and inclusion seriously and have it on their agenda. It’s not only the right thing to do ethically, but it’s also great for business!”

 

Priscilla Camp, UCF Position: Business Intelligence and Analytics Specialist III, I.T. DataDiva

 

  1. Why do you think so few women enter data science/AI/tech professions?

“You see the majority of women in jobs such as nursing, social workers, or teaching. Most of the these are in the healthcare field, and have a lot of human interaction. Many positions in the tech field do not interact with people as much. Or at least they didn’t use to. As many in our field can attest to, the amount of hours needed to complete a project and sift through data can be time consuming, which further limits social contact.

The lack of socialization and isolation doesn’t attract much women to tech professions. However, if you progress in your position and become a manager or director you will spend more time interacting with your team, customers, and co-workers which will increase your time interacting with other people.”

2.  Why do you think once they enter these professions, many women leave after a short period of time? 

“I think a lot of this is due to the lack of work/family balance. The Information Technology field is constantly progressing it requires a great deal of keeping your skills sharpened, which takes a lot of time. Having a family, especially when you are raising children, also requires attention. Balancing both of these can be extremely taxing. Giving employees more training opportunities for professional growth, can help with the balance.

Also, it would be nice to see more employers acknowledging this reality and increasing benefits, such as more Paid Time Off (Annual and Sick Leave), to encourage more of the family work life balance. Erasing the stigma of having to choose between the two I believe will help retain more women in the field. Also, mentors and sponsors are a huge plus. Mentors help by providing guidance and support, while sponsors, generally higher ups within organizations, can help with advancement. Woman additionally tend to not talk themselves up as much as men which can often hurt advance as they are perceived to maybe not be as knowledgeable as their more boisterous male colleagues. This is where sponsors are key as their voice can aid women at a higher level within the organization.”

3. What interventions do you think are needed in order to inspire and empower more women to work in the tech space?

“Additional scholarships, internships, conferences, and women networks can go a long way. Scholarships can help women afford school and give them time to focus on their studies instead of working demanding hours to pay for their schooling. Also, having companies partner with women where they can intern and have their schooling paid for also helps her get on the job experience. In addition, holding conferences aimed for women or having small meetups can help women not only talk about the challenges and rewards of the field, but also help them create networks where they learn and talk to other women.”

Also, if you are interested in landing a job in data science, also make sure to watch the on-demand webinars:

 

 

 


Wanna know more about data science? Besides my events, you should check out my webinars:
  1. If you want to learn data science: What it's like to be a data scientist and What’s the best way to become a data scientist
  2. If you are a CEO: The importance of data strategy