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Why do women feel so discouraged from software development roles?

Despite efforts to increase diversity and inclusion, the tech industry is still overwhelmingly male. When it comes to software development roles, the gap is even more apparent - women software engineer hires have increased by just 2% over the last 20 years.

With International Women’s Day this March, there are some serious questions we need to ask about why women are still so widely underrepresented in software development roles and what can we do to make a change?

The workplace culture gap

Small teams can only present so many opportunities for diversity; we have seven members on our team at A Digital, two of whom are women, however, I am the (for now) only female coder. Despite this, I’m incredibly fortunate here; this is a supportive and welcoming team where no question or issue is too much hassle. We all have opinions and ideas and are very much listened to, no matter who we are.

I’m aware that this isn't true for all female coders or for women in tech in general. For example, research has found that 64% of females between the ages of 18-24 said the company culture in their tech-based role made them so uncomfortable they had quit or at least thought about quitting.

Stereotypes only worsen this internal dynamic. Research at Bath University interviewed both men and women in tech, and found that many people have the opinion that “women cannot write code, but they are good at the ‘fluffy’ side of things, such as managing relationships with clients and handling anything to do with emotions.” Dated - and hugely inaccurate! - views like this will harm the number of women taking up tech roles like coding.

I’m incredibly fortunate to work at A Digital. This is a supportive and welcoming team where no question or issue is too much hassle. We all have opinions and ideas and are very much listened to, no matter who we are.

The education gap

It’s no wonder that young girls are still under the impression that computing is a subject for boys. Data from the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) revealed that the number of girls taking computing had increased by 4.32% last year. However, girls still remain outnumbered - making up just 21.28% of the total number of students. This is all despite the fact that female students excel in STEM areas. It’s worth remembering, by the way, that the first-ever computer programmer - Ada Lovelace - was a woman.

The representation gap

To change these misconceptions and encourage these highly-skilled girls to start a career in computing, we must ensure that IT is a desirable and welcoming environment for them. Work is being done to make a change. For example, Code First Girls, the largest provider of free coding courses for women in the UK, have raised £4.5m to help close the gender gap and offer free virtual courses.

The importance of initiatives and opportunities such as these to our industry cannot be overstated. A diverse team allows you to get a mix of opinions, experiences, and voices, which is essential to remaining relevant to customers and competitive within the talent market. An inclusive work environment tends to gain higher retention rates, lower employee turnover and overall greater customer satisfaction as people are more comfortable within their tech roles.

Ultimately, in the end, there is no reason for gender bias in tech. Not only do the benefits of diverse voices open up more opportunities, but it doesn’t make sense. Products and platforms are built for ‘people’, not just one gender, so why shouldn’t women be a part of that planning, discussion and delivery?

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