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Diversity and inclusion

Mind the Gender Gap: How Tech Can Bring Men and Women Closer Together

Narinder Hammond

Tech Closes The Gender Gap

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The gender gap seems to be growing wider each year – here’s how recruiters can use technology to bring more women into traditionally male-dominated sectors.

Last year, the UK was ranked 26th in the annual World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index – our lowest recorded score since 2008. Considering the fact that we are one of a few countries with a formal, nationwide workplace equality policy, this is quite disappointing.

According to the Guardian, the plunge from 18th to 26th was primarily due to a significant drop in the UK’s “economic participation” rating. This rating measures “attributes such as the ratios of women in the workforce, wage equality for similar work done by men, and the number of women in senior roles.”

Back in 2006, the UK was ranked 9th in the charts, but this number has experienced a steady decline year-on-year, bringing us to where we are now. Despite an increase of the number of women in the workforce, with more flexible working hours and practices, they are entering the work cycle at lower-paid positions compared to their male counterparts, according to the TUC. Moreover, when it comes to moving up the ladder, they’re struggling to remain in-step with men.

This is worrying when you consider more and more senior roles in the US are being taken up by women – just look at Yahoo! CEO Marissa Meyer, Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo, HP’s head honcho Meg Whitman and IBM’s Ginni Rometty – all of these major US companies have women at the helm. And, surprisingly, the majority of these women are in the tech sector, considered to be one of the industries where the gender gap has been most acute.

The Worst Affected Sectors

It’s not all doom and gloom though – in the financial services sector, for instance, women make up around 50% of the total UK workforce, while in the media, the figure is around 49%, and in medicine, 46% of all doctors are women.

But when you start looking at the sectors with reputations as being male-dominated environments, the picture gets increasingly grim. According to the Guardian, women only account for 11% of the construction workforce in the UK (the industry as a whole accounts for 6.4% of the country’s total GDP), with only around 1% of that number directly involved in manual trades.

Another standout is the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) sector – according to WISE, an organisation dedicated to bringing more females into these traditionally male roles, only 14.4% of STEM employees are women. WISE’s goal is to raise that number to 30%, a feat that would require the addition of nearly one million women to the STEM workforce.

Why are Women Being Left Behind?

Misperception has been a key problem in the tech and construction sectors and is in desperate need of change – Jane Tappuni writes in the Guardian: “If we continue to view IT as a profession that deals with fiddling with wires and servers,” she argues, “we will never know the truth or become as successful as...inspirational female thinkers and leaders.”

Likewise, the construction industry is plagued by preconceptions that women need to be physically and emotionally strong, whether that’s working in a manual labour job or an office-based position such as a surveyor, planner or project manager.

Chris Weller, a writer for Business Insider, cites two main cognitive biases that contribute to an early separation between men and women in technology, engineering and maths. The positivity bias is an “an error in judgment where a person overestimates their abilities,” a phenomenon much more common in boys than in girls. While girls and boys generally perform equally on maths tests, boys will often perceive their score as being better than it actually was. Weller believes this actually enables them to push through early trepidations with the subject.

Similarly, the Dunning-Kruger effect suggests that unskilled people substantially overestimate their abilities because they are unskilled, whereas highly skilled people underestimate their abilities because they are unaware. A report by the Atlantic shows that, across the globe, girls outperform boys in school in all subjects, yet girls are more likely to discredit themselves, while boys are unable to recognise their deficits.

Taking a Step in the Right Direction

Things like balancing work and motherhood need to be regarded in the industry as skills rather than unnecessary obstacles. These traditionally male-dominated industries must evolve for the better by taking those first tentative steps away from macho culture and into the 21st century.

But what good is a more enlightened industry if there are no women willing to bridge its gaps? Ideally, efforts to recruit women in construction and IT need to start early on in the classroom, where young people are making key decisions about their future career hopes and ambitions.

A growing number of companies are sponsoring initiatives to educate women about the opportunities in industries they may not have previously considered. For example, Monster has teamed up with Code First: Girls to promote the recruitment of women in the tech sector and Microsoft has announced it will be equipping all school pupils – regardless of interest or gender – with micro computers, encouraging them to code their own systems as a part of the built-in curriculum.

On a global scale, there needs to be a shift in our perception of the tech and construction industries, and women’s roles within those industries. A little information can go a long way, and finding better ways to recruit will prove vital in making this change a reality.

While more spots at vocational colleges should be made available for women, things do seem to be improving on this front. Leeds College of Building trains 900 women per year, with female tutors across the board. Then there are groups like the Construction Youth Trust and the Construction Industry Training Board, which are raising awareness among women and helping them realise their potential via better training and employment opportunities.

How Technology Can Make Things Better

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As Monster encourages companies across the UK to support the TechTalent Charter, which specifically aims to bring more women into the tech industry, recruiters themselves must seek out better tools in order to successfully diversify their workforce.

The journey begins with improving your company culture in order to make it attractive to all genders. Whether showcasing your female employees in top leadership positions, or promoting an overall all-inclusive environment, coming across as a company that values skills and aptitude above all else is vital to your ability to attract top female talent.

The next step is ensuring your job adverts are inclusive – make the fact that you’re open to applications from people of all backgrounds crystal clear, effectively breaking down the stereotypes of historically male sectors.

It’s also important for recruiters and HR staff to identify a strong candidate without the disruption of biases such as gender-based discrimination.

LaunchPad's video screening and interviewing software allows multiple recruiters to review each candidate, dramatically reducing the chance for unconscious bias to creep into the hiring the process. Moreover, video interviews make the application process accessible to a much wider pool of candidates. Obstacles such as long commutes, financial limitations and physical disabilities are no longer an impediment for potentially talented applicants, as anyone can record their responses from home.

Want to learn how technology can help your company become more diverse? Contact LaunchPad Recruits to find out how you can create a more equal and productive work environment for everyone.

(Main image credit: Keoni Cabral/flickr)

Narinder Hammond

A talented sales and relationship director within the recruitment industry with over 20 years experience within the Recruitment and Technology space.