How we can encourage more women to enter the region's tech industry
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How we can encourage more women to enter the region’s tech industry

How we can encourage more women to enter the region’s tech industry

Technology companies have been investing in diversity programmes aimed at attracting female workers

Gulf Business
Sandra Skairjeh

The passing of the iconic Ruth Bader Ginsburg hit me hard personally. She inspired me, not just as a professional, but as a mother, and a woman of the new world.

Her famous quote “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made” rings true in every area of my life and cannot be truer for every woman holding a leadership position in the workforce today.

As a professional technology marketing leader, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to live out my dream. However, I often get asked whether working for me is a choice or a necessity. While I do not take offense, I do find it an odd question to be asked in this day and age when women are leading boardroom discussions and even running countries.

In the generation of our grandmothers, most women were stay-at-home mothers. The next generation saw women having higher levels of education, liberation and independence. This was the generation that looked at “having a career as a choice”. Our daughters will take this empowerment further. We see it already in many occupations, which were traditionally considered to be ‘male-dominated’.

That said, women still face challenges in the workplace. The gender pay-gap exists in many industries and it must be the social responsibility of organisations to run wage audits, and evaluate recruitment and talent progression to counteract any bias.

Flexible work arrangements are another issue of contention. Organisations can use this methodology as an effective tool in attracting top female talent and reducing turnover and absenteeism.

The onset of Covid-19 and the lockdowns that followed made it apparent that focus must shift to productivity and measurable results, and not to the overall time spent tied to a desk.

For many working mothers, this year gave us a taste of remote working. And it has come with its own set of challenges.

The pandemic and remote working blurred the boundaries between work and family time. Many childcare and educational institutions had to change strategies and adopt remote learning. This meant that the funny memes seen online of a working mother in a hybrid suit feeding her infant or tutoring her child while on conference call, have become a reality.

Over the last few months, many knowledge workers can testify that there is no such thing as a 40-hour work week. Reputable marketing research shows peak email traffic starting much earlier, and web traffic spiking from late night into early morning hours in ways not seen before the pandemic.

This can be due to the immediacy of communications, and the need to be perceived as highly productive while working from home. This has led to mental and physical anxiety for many working women (and men) struggling to find that balance.

It is important that employers and leaders support their workforce in regaining that boundary even when working from home. Managers must reassure employees that it is alright to take time off. Communications must be thoughtful, where employees are reached upon and expected to answer during normal office hours. Most importantly, organisations must invest in the right collaboration and digital tools to enhance remote working experience and reduce stress.

Why tech needs more women

Technology is and will remain our future. The resilience of the industry has never been more apparent. When everyone transitioned into remote working overnight, technology ensured that we remained productive and that business continuity was sustained through virtual conferences and team collaboration from any place, at any time and through any device.

As such it is unfathomable to conceive that female representation in the technology sector has stalled over the last few years. This is even more surprising when research shows that the gender pay-gap in the tech industry is much smaller than in other sectors, with major players pledging equal pay.

Technology companies are also investing in diversity programmes aimed at attracting female workers and implementing strategies to improve the recognition and representation of women in IT. Within the field, while most women take up roles in sales, marketing and administration, the industry requires a spike in the research and development, programming, project management, IT management and engineering as well.

Experienced female leaders in the IT industry need to be the role models for others and speak openly of the benefits, opportunities, respect, and management advantages offered within the industry.

Quoting Melinda Gates, “If you are successful, it is because somewhere, sometime, someone gave you a life or an idea that started you in the right direction”. It depends on every woman in IT to inspire our future generations to embark on careers within the industry.

Looking wider, as professional women in the workforce, we must find our voices and the courage to openly talk about challenges that impact our productivity. Additionally, when selecting a potential employer, give preference to the ones that encourage diversity in the workplace, and those that have female role models in leadership positions.

Sandra Skairjeh is the head of Marketing – Emerging Markets and International Channels at Micro Focus

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