More than half (62%) of women in tech have seen levels of gender equality improve in their organization over the past two years, with a similar number (58%) who agree that gender equality could be improved by remote working. Results from the APAC region offer something of a conflict between personal perceptions, intimidation, and the actual progress being seen. Essentially, the evolution of women in tech has been positive for Asia-Pacific and the hope now is that COVID-19 doesn’t undo some of these steps forward. However, The findings from Kaspersky’s new Women in Tech report, Where are we now? Understanding the evolution of women in technology, also highlights that there is still room for improvement.
The idea of gender equality represents more than just physical bodies through doors. It is also the notion of perceptions, feelings, stereotypes and opportunity. Addressing the ‘intimidation’ side of things first, 50% of women agree that a lack of other females in their industry made them wary of starting a career in IT/tech, 12% above the global average. This fear is compounded by 43% of APAC women surveyed stating that they felt intimidated by the unequal gender spilt when they went through the interview process for their first job in IT/tech – a number that is driven in part by India where this number rises to a concerning 64%. Surmising this theme, 47% of women also agree they would feel less enthusiastic about joining an unequal gender environment, compared to 39% globally.
However, this is all being reported upon a backdrop where 62% of women surveyed in the region agree that the number of women in IT/tech roles in their organization (at all levels) has increased over the past two years. To this end, a positive sign of progression comes from the fact that almost two-thirds (65%) of APAC women agree that gender won’t impact their career, so the hope is that this will equate to more enthusiasm and less intimidation over the coming years.
Overall, the report addresses the longer journey towards true gender equality, with a full reflection on the results available on our dedicated website. Despite a global improvement in perceptions around gender representation, more than half of the women in the APAC region (58%) agree that gender equality could be improved by remote working, this indicates to an entrenched office culture concern that is still lingering for newcomers even if the overall picture and climate is improving.
The one remaining fear, however, is the impact of COVID-19, with 46% of women (40% globally) saying they’ve been held back from pursuing career changes since March 2020 because of home pressures, and only 40% of males in APAC reporting the same. More than any other region, both men (53%) and women (50%) across APAC believe COVID-19 has delayed their career progression, but the hope is that it won’t be detrimental to overall gender equality.
An online global outlook, designed to support the research findings, also shows how progression is moving at a different pace in different regions: from Europe where the gender balance seems to have actually worsened over the past two years; to North America where the move to homeworking may have accelerated the balance; to Latin America, where education is driving empowerment among young women in tech; and finally, APAC, where intimidation among women is now being overtaken by success stories.
To ensure women’s positive career experiences are reflected right across the globe, key steps and initiatives are needed to support a career in tech, including the provision of more mentoring or internship programs to provide access to opportunities and experience. But in order to instill a belief that the tech industry is a place for women to work and succeed, the journey needs to start much earlier.
“The issue of gender stereotypes needs to be addressed long before women enter the workplace. It needs to start at school, to engage and encourage an interest in IT and tech fields. Our work at Kaspersky with schoolchildren in a number of countries across the globe aims to ignite this interest at an early age and provide insight into what a career in tech might look like. The first step in a new direction is always the hardest. Without a supportive environment, girls can struggle to find kindred spirits in online communities or at relevant offline events. They need to see that IT professionals are ordinary people with diverse skillsets and abilities, and that anyone can aspire to join the tech space,” comments Noushin Shabab, Senior Security Researcher, Global Research & Analysis Team at Kaspersky.
Many companies across the globe are also beginning to introduce quotas that guarantee more equal representation across workforces. More than just adding numbers, they are designed to increase the likelihood of altered behaviors and reduced sexism in workplaces, more women reaching senior positions, and the creation of more role models who can share positive career experiences to young women who are considering entering the tech space. However, quotas aren’t the only way to maintain momentum and ensure further progress for women in tech.
“There is a famous saying that ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’. In the past few years, there have been increasing calls to improve the representation of women in technology and IT… While quotas can represent a relatively quick way to address the issue, the technology industry has proven to be institutionally misogynistic in ways that mean even quotas are insufficient for addressing the gender imbalance or aiding the progression of women to senior IT roles,” comments Dr Ronda Zelezny-Co-Founder and Director, Panoply Digital, and Ada’s List member.
She adds: “Given this, there is a need to go beyond quotas. A first recommendation is to implement blind hiring practices that help remove personal biases from the talent acquisition process. This includes removing identifying information from applications, amending the language in job adverts to eliminate sex-bias in favor of male candidates, and ensuring that candidate selection is free from bias by using diverse hiring committees (instead of individuals), recruiters trained to eliminate bias from hiring processes, and perhaps eventually truly intelligent algorithms created by diverse teams that can help with the candidate identification process,” explains Dr Ronda Zelezny-Co-Founder and Director, Panoply Digital.
More details on the current trajectory of women in tech, and how we can improve the situation further in the future, are available in the full Where are we now? Understanding the evolution of women in technology report.
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