The lack of female staff in technical positions was a key headline that emerged from the gender pay gap reports all larger vendors, distributors and resellers were forced to publish by 5 April.
Technical roles tend to pay well, and many firms in our sector pointed towards a lack of female engineers as a contributing factor in their gender pay gaps.
To take a prominent example, Microsoft said it has a 73-27 male-female split within its UK business, but admitted only 18.2 per cent of its technical staff are female.
Jennifer Norman, head of infrastructure transformation at Nottingham-based reseller XMA, said she has noticed that the industry is now more conscious about the lack of women in technical and engineering roles.
"In my specific field (technology infrastructure) I don't see an increase in women coming into roles but I do see an awareness of that, whereas previously there was no awareness of that fact…because it was just accepted that there were no women there," she said.
With over two decades of experience in engineering and technology, Norman's own career progression saw her start in a helpdesk role before eventually joining the server engineering team. She says that a "good proportion" of people working in helpdesk positions are women, but that much more can be done to encourage them to progress further.
"One of the areas we could be focusing on is developing women from the helpdesk roles into further engineering roles because that was my route. I haven't seen other women moving into datacentre engineering roles from helpdesks. You normally see women in that first and second-line role, but we need to help them progress further."
Norman hasn't seen any noticeable improvement in the number of women entering technical roles. XMA's field engineering team is "100 per cent" male. She has observed that there are lots of events and efforts to encourage women into coding, but is wary of the emphasis placed on one area of tech. "A lot is made of getting women into coding, but I don't see a lot being done to encourage women into other areas of engineering. Maybe that's something that we all need to address. The technology industry is vast and you don't have to be a programmer to be in technology."
Efforts to tackle the deficit can be frustrating due to the lack of women applying for engineering or technical jobs in the first place, said Alexa Greaves, CEO of Sheffield-based managed services provider AAG IT Services. "It is notoriously difficult to recruit female engineers; we have very few CVs in," she said.
AAG boasts three women in its four-strong management team. Greaves (pictured) says that her company has a "strong balance" of women across the business, but that they are in sales, accounts and the support functions, rather than the technical or engineering side. However, the company has recently hired two female engineers to its previously all-male engineering team. Greaves says that this speaks to the candidates' abilities but also that there is a slight increase in the number of women applying for these types of positions. "We have a very level playing field when it comes to who we are looking to recruit into the business. It's just that the percentage of women's CVs is a lot lower [for those roles]," she explained.
Greaves has observed an "appetite" in the industry to increase the number of female voices in technical positions, but that more could be done to engage women. "I look at the events I go to and it is commonly talked about, but I don't think enough is being actively done to bridge that gap between males and females in our industry," she said.
However, Greaves is cautious about "overplaying" the gap between men and women in the industry, and says that roles need to be filled based on a person's ability, rather than their gender. "I think there is a danger of overplaying that gap in the sense [that] you have to recruit the right person for the role. Yes, we actively look for female CVs, but still it comes back to who is the right person for that role when you are recruiting," she said.
Both women agree that much more could be done at an earlier age to lure girls into STEM subjects. Greaves said getting girls interested in technology has to begin in schools. "It has to start at school and inspiring girls to actually enter the industry to start off with. That's the only way they're going to address the number of women in the industry," she said.
Norman adds that getting more girls interested in technology may have to involve a broader approach, and a reduced focus on coding. "Getting girls into tech is doing anything in technology and just about being excited in what technology does and what it can do. We have so many other things coming along the line with automation and AI and analytics, it would be great to see women involved in some of those programmes as well," she said.
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