By Mary Harper, head of strategy for customer, digital and data at Standard Life.

It’s 2017, and over the last few years there has been a rise across the globe in conversations surrounding equality between men and women in the workplace.

While parity in positions and salaries are often at the core of these conversations, and are certainly areas in which we must see change, it’s just as important to ensure there’s a diverse workforce across each sector. Today, this is not always the case and, in particular, leadership roles within the technology industry remain dominated by men.

While programmes are in place to get more women into technology-focused careers, from grassroots initiatives to women in STEM training courses, we need to ensure that the workplace first and foremost is an environment where both men and women can strive equally to progress their careers.

Technology is used every single day, by both men and women. Thinking about the consumers who use it, it’s not purely a male-oriented reach. Both men and women from a variety of backgrounds and cultures use technology, why shouldn’t this be reflected in the workforce who create, design, and manufacture it?

An example I will use to demonstrate the subconscious bias that still lingers in the sector is women’s ability to code. In a recent article by The Guardian, it highlighted that women are considered to be better software coders, but only if their gender is concealed.

In research carried out by a group of university students, code written by women was more likely to be approved by their peers than code written by men. But that was only if their peers were made to be purposefully unaware that it had been created by a woman. When shown the coding along with the sex of the creator, more stated that the men’s work was superior.

So how can we change this attitude?

Make it a regular discussion in the boardroom

Leaders within organisations in the technology industry, whether male or female, must make it a priority to discuss the subject openly and regularly. They should outline ways in which the rest of the workforce can make a change and create an environment offering support and guidance. Boards should also recognise that by harvesting a culture that is supportive of women in leadership roles, they are much more likely to see a rise in revenue and a healthier bottom line.

Promote positive role models

Creating positive male and female role models for women can be key to the progression of their careers. However much work goes into encouraging women to choose technology as their career path, and no matter how many more women choose to endeavour in the industry; we must ensure there’s always a place for both genders to coincide and work together effectively. For women to see this in action, and for companies who are succeeding to come forward and showcase their progress, it can be extremely effective and encouraging.  

Create valuable networks

Networking events allowing women to meet, share stories and inspire forward-thinking in the workplace can be extremely impactful. Last night, I attended the first of a series of Deloitte women in leadership events, and spoke about how an increase in digital fluency can help close the gender gap. While the event was a success and got the conversation going, we were all very aware that no matter how many get-togethers we hold or attend, it will take a societal shift to really drive the change required in the tech industry.

The bottom line, metaphorically and literally, is that technology companies ensuring leadership positions are held with greater diversity are, on the whole, the ones bound to be most successful. But it’s the responsibility of us all within the industry and beyond to change perceptions, so what steps can you take to help?

You may also be interested in:

Three ways we can encourage more “IT” girls

Want to get women to the top? Try starting at the bottom

Leadership for the many – five ways to develop leaders in your organisation

National work life week: time to rebalance the scales



Mary Harper Blog

Mary Harper, Head of Strategy, Customer Data and Digital, Standard Life Plc

Mary Harper has over 17 years’ experience of digital, helping organisations to create and deliver their digital strategies. She’s also spent time as a developer, which she feels has been a real asset when understanding new technologies.

With in-depth experience in online, she specialises in helping organisations create and deliver digital strategies.


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