women in aple tech


Because VM Learning specialise in development programs for women while also owning the software company aXcelerate, we take the concept of a gender-balanced software industry quite seriously. And it seems that some of the big tech players within Silicon Valley are finally taking the concept seriously too.

At the most recent  Worldwide Developers Conference sponsored by Apple, two women presented to the crowd of software developers: vice President of Apple Pay Jennifer Bailey, discussed the progress in mobile payments while Susan Prescott gave the pitch for Apple’s forthcoming News app. It marks the first time female executives have made an on-stage appearance during an Apple Keynote presentation since 2010, when Zynga’s Jen Herman gave a demonstration of the game Farmville.

Meanwhile, at Google’s I/0 developers conference, arguably the biggest news of the day (Google Now on Tap) was presented by Aparna Chennapragada, the company’s director of product management. Chaennapragada was one of three women who spoke during the keynote presentation. Similarly, at the Developer conference for Microsoft in late April, three women took to the stage to walk developers through technical subjects like SQL databases and Saas applications. This is a stark difference to the Microsoft conference the previous year, where the only female voice on stage came from ‘Cortana’ who sounded like a lady but was really a piece of artificial intelligence technology.

It appears that the heavy hitters within the software industry are trying to shake the label placed upon them  by the media during the last few years as ‘sexist’ and  ‘male dominated’. Sadly they still have a long way to go before achieving gender equality. According to each company’s website, about 30% of Apple and Google’s employees are made up of women while 70% are made up of men. Meanwhile 28% of Microsoft’s employees are made up of women and 71.6% are made up of men.

The ratio of men to women is even more skewed outside these three software leaders. In Britain just 27% of those employed within their digital industries are women according to the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES). This is well below the UK average of 47% for female employees. In Australia the statistics aren’t much better with the Australian Computer Society and Deloitte’s digital pulse report released that only 28% of ICT workers within Australia are Women. Furthermore within this 28% of women, only 3%  are involved  in electronic trade positions as opposed to ICT administration.

This disparity between genders is not only bad for the individual, but also to the technological industry and the economy overall (considering technology is one of the fastest growing industries). A female perspective within technological companies is imperative, as research indicates that at least half of the users of technology based products and websites are women. Furthermore a report by Parks Associates revealed that more women than men are downloading movies and music; women do the majority of game-playing across certain platforms; and women have higher “purchase intentions” than men do when it comes to some electronics (2012).

Having a team of both men and women ensures that perspectives from both genders can be voiced and incorporated into the direction of the company, which ensures the technology caters more accurately towards its customers.

In Australia, many technology companies are actively trying to change these statistics through new recruitment policies and generous maternity leave policies and job share options. Microsoft Managing Director Pip Marlow said the company has committed to hiring 50% women in their graduate program each year.

“I spoke to one graduate we hired  (out of high school)…she got a scholarship to go into tech and she was so excited. I asked her why she accepted the role at Microsoft and she said it was because it had four levels of female managers. She could see a path in this company to go up”.

IT Executive, Azita Esmaili agrees with this concept. She suggests that quotas are a good first step to changing the culture and demographic within the technology industry. However she also recommends companies providing clear female role models so that new graduates can see a clear career path for women within technology. Finally she emphasised the importance of education. She argues that starting young is the key to ensuring more women become enthusiastic and passionate about a career in technology.

TechFuture Girls is a great example of this, as it provides a nationwide network of after-school computer clubs aimed to ensure future talent is being taught, trained and nurtured. Hopefully these organisations will also help to ensure the future generation of tech savvy women are prepped to take centre stage at future conferences for the big players: Apple, Google, Microsoft. Watch this space.

To find out more about recruiting and retaining women in the technological sector you can read Esmaili’s full report here: http://www.techworld.com/blog/using-data-power-future/creating-clear-path-female-success-in-it-3614899/

To find out more about female participation levels within the Australian ICT industry click here: http://www.afr.com/technology/female-participation-in-tech-fails-to-increase-despite-industry-push-20150608-ghgtgo