Technology Record - Issue 33: Summer 2024

81 IN FOCUS: WOMEN IN TECHNOLOGY “ Despite improvements in female representation, significant barriers remain” ANNA RADULOVSKI Gavriella Schuster Former Microsoft executive, currently serves on the board of directors for several technology companies and private equity firms within the Microsoft ecosystem Anna Radulovski CEO and founder of WomenTech Network, and founder and board director for Coding Girls Contributors: Christine Bongard CEO of The WIT Network, which is sponsored by Microsoft, and member of the Microsoft partner advisory board We ask three leaders from organisations dedicated to promoting gender diversity in technology to share their insights into the reasons behind the underrepresentation of women in the industry and how the technology landscape is evolving to combat this. They also discuss why diversity plays a crucial role in driving the development of new tools and solutions for technology companies. The Microsoft Global Diversity & Inclusion Report 2023 shows that the number of women working at Microsoft has grown by 3.6 per cent since 2019 to 33.1 per cent. How has the overall technology business landscape changed for women in the last five years? Christine Bongard: We have seen changes, but they have been slow. The number of women in leadership positions has increased by two per cent but we only represent 12 per cent of all C-suite roles. Positive advancements include the rise of flexible work arrangements, which has helped women balance career and family responsibilities, a greater awareness and stricter policies against workplace harassment and an increased focus on workplace mental health. Anna Radulovski: The technology industry has seen shifts like remote work, the return to offices and the introduction of hybrid working models, as well as challenges such as layoffs and the rise of generative artificial intelligence. These changes have influenced the landscape for women in technology. Despite improvements in female representation and support from women’s employee resource groups, significant barriers remain. The ‘broken rung’ phenomenon continues to hinder women from advancing to mid-level and senior roles, where there is a noticeable lack of diversity. Addressing this problem is crucial for achieving true equity. Gavriella Schuster: Technology companies have moved away from only hiring people with 20 years of experience. With technology moving so quickly, organisations now need people who can improve customer journeys and understand the value of AI. In fact, people who have been in the industry for a long time can be more of a liability because they are used to thinking differently about new use cases. I think that has opened doors for people who haven’t traditionally been in the industry for long, like women, to participate. AWomenTech Network survey found that 57 per cent of women in technology, media and telecommunications roles plan to leave their jobs within two years. What do you think are the key factors that make it difficult to attract and retain women in the technology industry? CB: First, there’s the well-documented gender pay gap, where women often earn less than their male counterparts for similar roles. Second, hiring practices can sometimes be biased, favouring candidates from certain backgrounds or networks, perpetuating the gender imbalance. Moreover, the perception of a ‘bro culture’ in technology can create an unwelcoming or even hostile environment for women. In addition, some women still lack access to mentorship and sponsorship, both of which are crucial for career development and advancement. AR: The technology industry is portrayed as male dominated, which deters women from joining. The lack of female role models and educational gaps in STEM also contribute to gender imbalance. Additionally, societal norms often misrepresent technology roles as solely highly technical, overlooking