One of the missions of International Women’s Day is to elevate and advance gender parity in technology and celebrate the women forging innovation.
This year Dame Stephanie Shirley, IT entrepreneur and pioneer in the tech industry gave a keynote speech. Back in 1962, Shirley set up one of the first software businesses from her kitchen table. This at a time when not only did a woman require a male signatory to open a bank account but software was merely given away free alongside hardware.
A self-confessed ‘pathfinder for women’, Shirley circumnavigated the conventions of the time by recruiting professionally qualified women who had left employment upon marriage. Thus she created a ‘very modern cottage industry’ and innovation providing fixed pricing to disguise the domestic nature of her staff.
Early projects included programming for the first Black Box flight recorder for Concorde and developing software standards on management control protocols which went on to be adopted by NATO. Reflecting on IWD22, Dame Stephanie acknowledged we should “celebrate the gains that have been made but also recognise that there are still steps to take.”
Role model visibility and support are vital to encourage women into Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) career paths. Whilst according to women in technology statistics studies smaller tech companies are more likely to employ women as companies with less than 1,000 employees hire about 30.02% of women in tech.
Commenting on IWD regarding her female colleagues, Samantha Roberts fu3e., Product Manager said, “Proud to be part of an incredible and dynamic team… I love how collaborative and creative our work is - our team is our ultimate competitive advantage.”
In Higher education between 2011-2020 the number of women accepted onto undergraduate STEM courses increased by 50.1% according to Gov.uk, with STEM degrees offering some of the highest earnings returns for female graduates.
As these first millennials enter the workforce, on a global scale we are heading towards 40% of women in tech positions in the next 5 -10 years.
Whilst women’s relationship with technology has been palpable since the beginning of computing and problem-solving, it was long considered a male domain. If current trends in STEM continues, this is about to change.