Research released today by NTT DATA UK, a world leader in consulting and IT services, reveals that nearly three quarters of women (74%) have had a negative experience at work because of their gender. Despite ongoing barriers facing women in the sector, 85% of all respondents believe the industry has become more welcoming to women over the last decade, with the most cited reason behind this improvement being an increase in diversity initiatives.
The last decade has seen a concerted effort to improve opportunities for women in the technology sector. Diversity initiatives – such as NTT DATA’s route2work, which is funding female candidates through digital skills academies – are clearly making an impact, with both women (63%) and men (68%) agreeing that these programmes have had a key role to play in making the sector more welcoming for women over the last ten years. Increased flexibility was also cited by 48% of women and 54% of men as a factor that has improved women’s experience in the sector.
However, women continue to face adverse behaviour that risks affecting their ability to feel safe and valued in the workplace: 59% have experienced being spoken down to because they are a woman; 49% have experienced biased behaviour towards them as a woman; and 34% have experienced discrimination based on factors such as gender, race, sexuality, and age.
Addressing the gender imbalance
Continued negative experiences are likely one of the reasons why only 23% of people working in STEM roles in the UK are female, according to PwC’s Women in Tech report. NTT DATA UK’s survey asked women and men how this gender imbalance might be rectified. The most popular response (77% of women and 69% of men) was an increase in grassroots STEM activities designed to get girls interested in tech at an early age. Other potential solutions among women included championing women leaders in tech (65%), and creating more sponsorships, paid internships, and grants to enable women to try technology roles (62%). For men, the next most popular response was challenging the misconception that the sector is a ‘men’s club’ (57%).
Vicki Chauhan, Head of Public Sector at NTT DATA UK, commented: “We should be proud as a sector of how far we’ve come in addressing the stark reality that the industry is not as welcoming to women as it is to men. That said, we must not become complacent. The results of our research reveal that women continue to experience patterns of behaviour that make them feel less welcome than their male counterparts.
“To address this problem, and to continue addressing the gender imbalance in the UK technology industry, organisations must take measures to ensure their working cultures are inclusive, alongside putting tangible measures in place to attract women into the tech sector and support them in their careers.”
Kim Gray, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at NTT DATA UK, commented: “The results of our research are sobering, and should be a call to action for businesses across the sector. At a time when demand for talent is so high, tech firms can ill-afford to put off talented candidates with a culture that does not make them feel welcome.
“At NTT DATA UK, we have implemented a variety of initiatives under the broad umbrella of our Do Diversity campaign, which seeks to foster an inclusive environment and make careers at NTT DATA accessible for all. We remain committed to supporting a diverse and inclusive workforce, and to promoting diverse and inclusive practices across the wider industry.”