Covid is creating challenges and opportunities for women in tech
The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a huge increase in the use of technology in people’s day-to-day lives, however for women working in tech, it’s hurting their career progression.
This is a key finding from a new report by technology firm Kaspersky, which surveyed women working in IT and technology across Europe, North America, Asia Pacific and Latin America.
Half the women who took part in the survey said they are struggling to advance their career while they juggle home schooling and caring responsibilities during the pandemic.
When respondents were asked about the daily tasks that are detracting from productivity or work progression, 60% said they did most of the cleaning in their home compared to 47% of men. This figure rises to 78% and 64% respectively in the United States. Meanwhile, 63% of women have been in charge of home schooling compared to 52% of men, and 54% of women have had to adapt their working hours more than their male partner in order to look after the family.
However half the respondents also believe that gender equality is more likely to be achieved through flexible and remote working.
The study found that almost a third of women working in the tech industry prefer working at home to working in the office, and work most efficiently from home. As many as 33% revealed they have more autonomy when not working in an office.
This highlights how the potential of remote working for women in tech isn’t being matched by social progression. While these examples of social disparity are not specific to technology, they do point towards a barrier that is preventing women from capitalising on the shift to remote working.
As many as 41% of women in tech (compared to 34% of men) believe an equal working environment would be best for career progression, and 46% think that remote working is an optimum way to achieve that equality.
The research also found several positives:
- 53% of women said the number of women in senior IT or technology roles in their organisation has increased over the past two years
- 56% said that gender equality has improved in their organisation over the past two years
- 70% believe their skills and experience were considered to be more important than their gender during the interview process for their first IT or tech role
- 69% said they were now more confident that their opinion would be respected from day one, regardless of their gender
The study concludes that the tech sector must encourage the notion of women working from home to be normalised. Companies must offer equitable maternity, paternity, and parental leave that supports shared parenthood, and that covers situations beyond natural births by heterosexual partners. There must also be support for career progression for women returning to work after maternity leave.
Additionally, creating new products and services developed for and designed by women is key. One potential area to explore is artificial intelligence (AI), to ensure the algorithms now used across so many services and industries are free from bias. Organisations like US-based Feminist AI are emerging – a community-based project hosting workshops that focus on helping BIPOC and LGBTQ participants to create their own social technologies or AI.
“We have seen attention grow as it relates to the lack of diversity in AI along the lines of both sex and ethnicity” Dr Ronda Zelezny-Green, Co-Founder and Director of Panoply Digital said in the report. “There is a huge potential in telling the stories of Timnit Gebreu and Joy Buolamwini, black women who are leading the charge for more ethical and inclusive design of AI technologies that affect society at large.
“Telling different stories about the need for more women in tech roles in areas like AI will go a long way for women to make inroads in IT and tech roles where we are currently underrepresented.”
To read the full report visit Kaspersky: Women in tech report