How can businesses attract and retain more women in technology?

How can businesses attract more women in technology? Jo Hannaford, Head of EMEA Technology at Goldman Sachs, explores how businesses can make a change.

jo-hannaford-300x300This article was originally published on Goldman Sachs.

There are countless stories about women revolutionising the way we use technology throughout history. From Ada Lovelace writing what is considered to be the first computer algorithm in 1842, to Margaret Hamilton developing on-board flight software for the Apollo space programme in the 1960’s. Therefore, when placed in context, it is only recently that technology has proved more inaccessible to women. Why is this? And more importantly, what can we do to change this?

We have seen a vast decrease in the number of women pursuing further education and careers in computer science since the 1980’s, which can broadly be put down to a shift in the perception of the technology industry from a clerical industry for women, to an innovative industry suited to men. This stigma has proven extremely hard to shake, and there’s no silver bullet explanation or answer for this problem. But for me, what I have seen have the biggest impact from, both personally and throughout my organisation, is inspiration.

There are three areas where the technology industry falls short, where taking action will make a significant impact in inspiring women to join and remain in the industry.
 
Lack of female role models

There are a number of incredible women in technology today to look up to. However, there is a real lack of day-to-day female role models in the workplace, and this tangible presence is what makes the difference.

To address this and affect  change at Goldman Sachs, I regularly encourage other female and male senior leadership to be mentors to women in technical roles with the aim of instilling a 'pay it forward' mentality and ensuring everyone is equally responsible for recruiting diverse talent. Externally I encourage mentorship through my involvement with WISE – an organisation dedicated to providing greater access to women in STEM roles – as a board member.
 
Education at every level
 
It is of crucial importance that the quality of education around STEM and technology specifically is improved, with teachers dispelling the myth around these being gendered subjects. We should be teaching students about the broader applications of technology and how it can be leveraged to solve problems. This is why we get involved with programmes like Bletchley Park’s Ultra Outreach Programme, who work with disadvantaged students exploring codes and ciphers and the dramatic role that Bletchley Park played in history.
 
But it’s not just school where we need to focus our efforts – statistics show that women continue to make choices that take them out of the STEM pipeline later in their careers. Up-skilling is key in combatting this especially in an industry that is constantly changing and developing. Education in technology at all levels is something that all organisations should encourage – it’s at the forefront of our retention strategy. Encouragement around learning is empowering, especially for those women who may leave work for a period of time to have children.
 
Company Culture

Lastly, company culture has a huge role to play in helping inspire women to join and remain in technology. I’ve been at Goldman Sachs for 20 years. The reason I’ve stayed so long is because of the culture and values of the firm – it’s collaborative, creative, authentic, non-ego centric and incredibly supportive. Investing in and training people is a huge part of what we do.

A positive and inclusive work environment can help immensely in combatting misconceptions around aggressive male-dominated technology work environments. Work for a company where diversity and inclusion is embedded in the culture and in the people.