Today it’s International Women’s Day, an initiative created to put the spotlight on the inequalities that still exist between men and women with the hope of progressing gender parity. This is a much talked about topic, but how far have we really come towards a society where people are judged based solely on who they are, instead of what they are?
It’s been over a hundred years since the world saw the suffragette movement win the vote for women in most parts of the Western world, and much has happened since. Previously men-only professions have been opened up to both sexes, and advances in legislation have strengthened women’s freedom and the right to their own body.
But we’re not there yet! Two decades into the new millennia, the tech industry is still struggling with just a third of our co-workers being female. The future is not looking bright, with only 20 percent of computer science students in the UK being female and similar numbers in the US. On top of that, according to E&Y, the majority of business leaders don’t expect to see any significant change in the years to come. The pace of progress so far simply isn’t good enough, but there are things leaders and companies can do to move the dial.
The first step is to talk about the problem
We (especially us men) need to recognize the fact that there is a gender issue and appreciate that we are not always seeing the structures and attitudes that foster an unequal climate. Part of the problem is that these structures are not always easy to spot. According to the latest Great Place to Work survey, 92 percent of IFS employees believe that people in our company are treated fairly, regardless of gender. Although the initial reaction is to understand the concerns of the 8 percent who don’t agree, overall 92 percent is slightly above average compared to other global organizations. However, that’s not the complete picture: when you break the results down by gender, the story changes. 96 percent of men believe we have equality in terms of gender, but with women that score is only 84 percent!
I don’t believe IFS is unique in this sense. This is a global challenge, where even the best in class have a way to go, but in the end, gender equality comes with large benefits for all.
The second step is to do something about it
The issue needs to be addressed at many levels and in all areas of an organization’s culture. Internally at IFS, we have issued guidelines to help staff spot the hidden inequality in the way we communicate, for instance through the use of pictures in presentations and the expressions we use. Creating an equal working climate is fundamental.
In order to address the bigger issue of too few women in tech, global organizations like IFS need to do their part to change stereotypes about IT and inspire young women to take the tech route. Through the IFS Education Program, we work with 80+ universities around the world to show the next generation the amazing things a career in technology can offer – regardless of gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation or something else. We also visit high schools and even elementary schools around the world to spread the word that we put diversity at the core of the business.
After more than a century of debate about gender inequality, most of us will agree that there is a problem, but it’s tough to admit that many of us inadvertently contribute to it. We must recognize that gender equality is not a fight for women alone, but just as much an issue for men.
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