International Women's Day: tech field lacking female role models
International Women's Day: tech field lacking female role models

New research conducted by ISACA uncovered why women remain underrepresented in the field and how much work remains before a stronger tech workforce of the future can be built in which women are equally represented, fairly compensated and possess confidence that their employers are committed to their success.

More than 500 of ISACA's female members across the globe participated in the study.

The top five barriers experienced by women in tech are:

  • Lack of mentors (48 percent)

  • Lack of female role models in the field (42 percent)

  • Gender bias in the workplace (39 percent)

  • Unequal growth opportunities compared to men (36 percent)

  • Unequal pay for the same skills (35 percent)

“As an industry, we must commit to changing these numbers and breaking down the barriers for women in technology. It is well past time to address these issues,” said Tara Wisniewski, managing director of advocacy and public affairs at ISACA.

“I chose a career in cyber-security as I wanted a challenge, and knowing I could help make a difference I pursued my keen interest in the industry,” said Orla Cox, director of security response at Symantec.

The research discovered that women specifically want mentors, role models and strong networking opportunities.

Seventy-five percent stated their employer lacks a gender leadership development programme and eight out of 10 women reported their supervisors are male.

Only eight percent reported that they've never experienced gender bias in the workplace. Twenty-seven percent say they often or always experience gender bias.

Only 22 percent believe their employers are very committed to hiring and advancing women in tech roles.

The first step, Krysten M. McCabe, CISA, past board director of ISACA and director in the assurance and advisory management programme at the Home Depot to encouraging more women into tech is making current technology leaders realise that gender diversity is valuable: “One of the things that I have noticed through my interactions with leaders in the male-dominated technology field is that these leaders believe their teams perform as successfully with or without females as a part of them. That is incorrect thinking.”

Pay disparity remains a challenge around the globe with 25 percent of respondents from Africa, 53 percent from Europe, 48 percent from Latin America, 60 percent from the Middle East, 42 percent from North America and 80 percent from Oceania reporting that male colleagues tend to be paid more, without a clear reason.

Less than one in every four women believe they and their male counterparts are paid equally given equal skills and expertise. Forty-three percent say they are being paid less than those with equal skills and experiences and none say they are paid more.

Despite evidence that more women lead to greater innovation and enhanced profitability, only 21 percent of executives in tech are women.

The primary reasons women are underrepresented in the technology field are:

  • Tech leaders/role models are mostly males (33 percent)

  • IT is perceived as a male-dominated field (22 percent)

  • There is a lack of work/life balance (14 percent)

  • Educational institutions don't encourage girls to pursue tech careers (14 percent)

Too many women feel inadequately supported by their bosses, their environment and their companies. Only fifty-seven percent of women reported that they are offered training to sustain or advance their careers.

In regard to today's UK Spring Budget and the role of women in technology, Dr Jamie Graves, CEO of Zonefox, told SC Media UK, “I want to hear details about how the government plans to invest further into ensuring that the UK is robustly protected against this modern threat. This would not only involve ensuring the very latest in cyber-security technology is developed here in Britain, but also that the next generation of people – particularly women, who are woefully unrepresented are trained in this sector.”

QA also conducted research on over 80 women currently in technology jobs. Half of the women surveyed said that they were actively discouraged from starting in tech by their parents, schools, colleagues and other family members.

According to the research from QA, around 80 percent said they didn't think a career in technology would be attractive as a teenager, but around 100 percent have enjoyed an exciting career in tech. Eighty percent of women think that more female role models are needed.

Bill Walker, CTO at QA, told SC of his shock that “a huge percentage of women, within the sample, were actively discouraged from starting a tech career, by people that they trust. Luckily, these ones made it through into the industry, but there will be many who haven't and are missing out. It makes sense that over 40 percent of women in tech roles started a career in a different field, having been discouraged by those close to them.

“With the sector growing, and with women representing just 17 percent of all IT roles, unless action is taken to change the perceptions of technology, improvements in gender disparity won't be made.”