Are tech companies actually embracing diversity?

There have been a lot of talk about diversity and inclusivity in hiring. Tech companies are inevitably a part of the buzz, being one of the few industries who publish gender reports on their websites. However, the persistence of the gender gap within tech highlights a possible lack of effectiveness in current diversity strategies.

 

What are some of the prevalent trends?

  • Existing dominance of men in tech despite women’s interest in tech

It’s old news that the technology sector is a male-oriented domain whilst women often struggled for equality.  

In a recent MasterCard Report, 41% of teenage girls here in Singapore expressed that they are less likely to pursue STEM-related jobs (such as Finance and Technology) because of its strong male presence. This sentiment was echoed by 44% of first-jobbers, who felt that women are generally less interested in STEM than men. Similarly, a study done by Monster shows a low percentage of women actively seeking for technology jobs at 26% in comparison to males at 74%.

 

However, what is essential to note from the report – 78% of non-STEM first-jobbers have considered a career in STEM because of its rewarding challenges whilst 64% mentioned they were always able to learn something new. Another 50% chose STEM for growth and 43% for career advancement. This illustrates a genuine interest in pursuing a career within STEM albeit the limitations faced. 

  • Do cultural perceptions still exist within the tech industry?

Cultural perceptions impact women's leadership opportunities while ingrained cultural attitudes create environments that are not very enticing for women. 

The existing narrative around Asians’ success is the constrain by what is known as the “bamboo ceiling”. The bamboo ceiling prevents Asians in particular, from achieving leadership positions, which further results in Asian women being doubly discriminated as they too struggle to break the gender glass ceiling.

Business leaders are often expected to be competent, intelligent, and dedicated. But they are also expected to be charismatic and socially skilled — often denoted as masculine, dictatorial or authoritarian. Women, being perceived as submissive, would naturally have to jump through higher hoops and show more competence in comparison to men in order to climb up the corporate ladder.

This traditional mind-set is now shifting and businesses are beginning to determine the competencies instead that are needed to fulfil a leadership role. This would ensure the selection is based on requirements, experience and competency rather than adhering to leadership stereotypes.

  • Achieving gender diversity is not just about tackling challenges of women

In Singapore, most men are often more stressed about job security compared to women, as mentioned by an expert on gender research and psychology.

Long hours, inflexible work schedules and a family-unfriendly corporate culture may affect working women more due to the major caretaking role they tend to undertake for their children. And this is despite significant improvements in gender equality. But this does not mean that men do not face the same issues.

In fact, research have shown that men often choose to suffer in silence on the difficulties they face. Hence, their issues are more unlikely to be raised in public or less likely to draw attention for policy discussions.

Hence, the senior males in tech companies are stepping up to uphold gender equality. IBM is an example. To improve its gender parity, IBM’s recently revamped parental leave policy now includes 20 weeks of paid maternity leave, and 12 paid weeks of leave for fathers as well. Furthermore, IBM offers up to $20,000 in reimbursement for couples or individuals pursuing adoption.

Although most tech companies like IBM are predominantly dominated by men, they are potentially setting the right example to other men alike in upholding equality of the genders within the workplace. And it is simply because of the benefits that diversity can bring not just to women, but to men too.

Additionally, research study ‘The Modern Workplace 2018: People, Places & Technology by Condeco revealed that 31% of those in Singapore said over half of their company works flexibly – lower than global standards at 40%. According to the release, this might hint that flexible working has not advanced as far in Singapore as in some countries.

Nevertheless, tech companies are gradually becoming more creative with non-traditional work arrangements which highly encourage workplace-flexibility for both men and women.

 

Diversity and inclusivity – more than just hiring

It is a mindset to foster inclusivity, regardless of race, heritage, gender or background. The tech industry across the globe is usually community driven and as such, strategies to encourage diversity and inclusivity will give every individual an opportunity to pursue a career in STEM.  

Some good examples of tech companies who are working towards improving gender diversity in the workplace:

Accenture has taken concrete steps to hire, develop, and promote female employees, including a leadership program to help the company’s most senior women advance into executive roles. 80% of its women who’ve participated in the program since it began six years ago were either promoted or had their duties expanded significantly. They also launched a Women in Technology program that fast-tracks the careers of high-achieving female employees.

Salesforce has made a strong commitment to equal pay for equal work — as pay inequality between men and women is still a major and persistent issue in the workplace. As part of this commitment, the company has implemented regular audits of employee salaries to identify and address statistically significant, gender-based pay gaps. In 2017 alone, Salesforce spent nearly $3 million on this effort.

Even within recruitment, SThree founded ‘Identity’ – as part of our Diversity and Inclusion Programme – with the objective of providing a strategic approach to manage and increase awareness around diversity.

Driving ‘equality’ in a world of difference, we have always been determined to advocate for diversity and inclusivity in whatever we do. Organising Women in Tech events for Huxley have allowed us to gather likeminded women who shared how equality should always be front-of-mind for businesses, governments, regulators, and throughout our society.

Advocating change often begins with a single step and the team here at Huxley is always passionate about driving this change. If you’d like to join in on this discussion, do drop us an email at [email protected]. Do also connect with us on Linkedin for more updates from us.

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