The low numbers of women in STEM-related roles has been well documented and the Scottish Government has created a number of initiatives to try to redress the balance and encourage more women into tech-related roles – and to return to the digital workforce.

So, why are women still so underrepresented in the tech workforce and what are they looking for from their employer?  This week Purpose HRModulr Finance and Administrate launched the findings of their survey conducted across the female tech community  and challenged employers to think differently about how they attract new members of staff.

The survey found that more than half of the respondents would prefer to work in an SME than a larger organisation – great news for the TalentSpark clients I support! Startups and smaller businesses were seen to be more attractive as they provided an opportunity to have a real impact in the business and provide better opportunities for progression and career development.  In a small team it’s inevitable that colleagues get to know each other well and understand external pressures, so many also offer better flexibility in their working practises. However, companies need to work harder to articulate their ‘employer brand’ and differentiate themselves as inclusive employers

Respondents to the survey were attracted to companies with gender diversity in senior roles and a clear a policy of reviewing gender pay gaps. Collaboration or association with gender equality groups or networks  (such as Scottish Women in Technology or Girl Geeks) was also seen as a positive. It’s safe to assume this isn’t just unique to tech. At Eden Scott we practice what we preach; almost half of our senior management team is female, bringing better balance to decision making across the business.

A recent article in Forbes highlighted a Harvard study looking at working mothers and the effect that working has on their children. Far from the neglected latchkey kids often depicted by the media, the survey found that children benefitted from having a working mother. Girls were more likely to be successful in their careers (with the potential to earn more than the daughters of stay at home mothers) and sons demonstrated higher levels of domestic support to their partners.

This is great news for Scotland’s digital skills academy, Codeclan, which recently launched a new (free) ten week course; #techmums Digital Skills Club. The course allows mums to dedicate a small amount of time each week to learning new digital skills to increase their employability. It’s important to remember that providing the skills is only half the battle.

In her book ‘Brotopia- breaking up the Boy’s Club of Silicon Valley Bloomberg journalist Emily Chang discusses the toxic culture and challenges that many women have faced in Silicon Valley, where just one in five engineers is a woman. Chang highlights how hard it is for females to rise through the ranks of the tech community. Employers have a responsibility to reduce discrimination through inclusive language in job descriptions and by removing names from CVs to reduce bias in hiring managers, but the culture of the whole organisation needs to be examined if companies in the UK are to avoid making the same mistakes.

As the burgeoning tech community in Scotland continues to gather momentum, we all have a role to play in ensuring the most talented women feature as keynote speakers at events, not because they are women, but because they are making waves in their industry and influencing their market. Above all we need to highlight women in tech roles and the vital skills and value they bring to the companies they work in.

If you require top talent (of any gender!) to grow your team, get in touch. If you want to add more diversity to your team, we’re happy to review your employer brand and offer insight into how you might present it better for an inclusive, diverse workforce.