Tech sector also needs insights from women

04/12/18

Ten recommendations to push more girls and women towards emerging technologies and keep them there

Data analytics, artificial intelligence and smart robotics are changing the tasks we perform and the skills we need. Digitalisation and smart automation are fundamentally transforming the way we work and creating jobs for people who can apply technology to current tasks; people who can design, monitor, maintain and fix technology; and people who can optimise human-technology interaction. Many of the current tasks and jobs as we know them will change as we increasingly use new technologies to optimise the way we work.

A bright outlook? In many ways, yes. At the same time, it is very likely that many of these jobs will be occupied by male workers. Women are strongly underrepresented in the technical sector, and if nothing changes in our education system in particular, it will remain so. That is bad for society. If technology is primarily designed by the male half of the population, consumers miss the insights, innovations and solutions of the female half. In our report '10 nudges for more #WomenInTech' we give ten recommendations to push more girls and women towards emerging technologies and keep them there.

Women with STEM-related work earn more

Of the 39.3 million women in the EU with a degree, only 1.4 million work in tech. In the Netherlands, only 15% of all mathematicians, engineers, technicians and ICT specialists are female. According to Jan Willem Velthuijsen, chief economist at PwC, the origin of several problems lies here. “Women with STEM-related work (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) earn 35 percent more in comparison with women who are not working in these industries. But it's not just about salary. Women also miss the experience with new technologies, which will become more important in the near future.”

Experiences during educational career influence diversity in tech sector

The lack of diversity in technical professions is largely determined by deep-rooted convictions and experiences during the educational career. Even though we have made considerable progress in encouraging more girls to choose STEM profiles during their secondary education and university studies, only a small fraction of girls with the corresponding degrees will actually end up in a STEM-related job.

Ten nudges for more women in tech

Provide feedback on how well girls are doing in STEM compared to other subjects

This can help update our potentially biased beliefs and allow us to reassess our performance. Furthermore, feedback can encourage the right people to participate in competitions – those most capable instead of those most overconfident. Frequent feedback has been shown to encourage women to compete.

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Eliminate clues that trigger performance-limiting stereotypes

For example, move the tick boxes where candidates are asked to select their gender and ethnicity from the beginning to the end of a test.

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Involve female STEM teachers and others in counter-stereotypical roles

An initiative in which female maths teachers or engineers - as well as male nurses and male primary school teachers - speak to school children can be powerful in the formative years for both boys and girls. In introductory STEM courses, female students were more likely to continue their studies in a STEM subject when assigned a female professor instead of a male professor. The faculty’s gender had no effect on the choices made by male students.

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Don't forget the details

The attitude of students can also be affected by subtle and simple changes such as diversifying the portraits on the walls of your organisations.

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Purge gendered language from job ads and other company communications

This is especially important as women consider more factors than men when screening jobs - in particular, cultural fit, values and managerial style. Research suggests that establishing a sense of belonging is a major concern for female job seekers.

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Remember that the importance of relatability extends across various platforms of recruitment activities

First impressions also matter in recruitment sessions. In a study of staff recruitment sessions at a US university, only 22% featured female engineers talking about technical work. In the few sessions that featured women speaking on technical subjects in which they connected these issues to instances of real-world impact, female students were much more engaged, asking questions 65% of the time, compared with only 36% in sessions with no women speakers.

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Do away with self-assessments wherever possible

Or at least avoid sharing self-assessments with evaluators ahead of performance reviews. Many firms ask their employees to evaluate themselves and then share these self-evaluations with their supervisors. Self-assessments entrench gender biases through anchoring, where women will generally underrate their performance, which serves as an unconscious, low, reference point for evaluators.

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Invite team members to speak up

Legitimise negotiations about promotion and salary raises by enabling people to negotiate on behalf of others.

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Include a critical mass of women in teams to avoid tokenism

When building teams, consider how to add complements and not substitutes. A diversity of viewpoints can trump average excellence when it comes to collective problem-solving. Both ability and diversity are required to maximise collective intelligence.

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Change norms through smarter messaging

Celebrate successes in increasing gender diversity. Instead of describing the small fraction of female representation, focus messaging on the large fraction of companies with gender diverse leadership. People are more likely to adopt a new behaviour if they know that many others are already doing it.

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Pipeline from secondary education to career in tech is leaking in many places

The pipeline from secondary education to a technical study and ultimately a career in beta technique, is leaking in many places. “Some of the girls in havo/vwo with a nature & technology profile eventually opt for a non-technical study, or after a technical study for a non-technical job. The latter is especially true if they have done a study with beta elements instead of a complete science study,” says Velthuijsen.

We think that the imbalance between men and women in science technology can only be remedied if schools, universities and companies work together to change the views on science technology, increase the self-confidence of girls and women and create an environment that makes them feel at home in this sector. “The ten behavioral measures can help to balance the difference between men and women in these sectors”, says Velthuijsen.

Contact us

Jan Willem Velthuijsen

Chief Economist, PwC Netherlands

Tel: +31 (0)88 792 75 58

Marc Borggreven

Partner, PwC Netherlands

Tel: +31 (0)88 792 44 89

Angeli Hoekstra

Advisory partner, PwC Netherlands

Tel: +31 (0)88 792 25 17

Suzanne Keijl

Partner, PwC Netherlands

Tel: +31 (0)88 792 35 17

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