Gender inequality remains prevalent across many industry sectors. One of these particularly affected sectors is technology. Last year, McKinsey’s study on recruiting and retaining women in technology organisations revealed that the number of young women completing engineering and technology programmes has dropped significantly over the past 30 years. A recent report from the National Centre for Women & Information Technology suggests that a little more than half of all US women who do enter technology fields leave their employers mid-career.
So what is being done to address this problem? Girls Who Code offer practical solutions. They are a non-profit organization founded several years ago to provide computer-science education and training to girls in grades 6 to 12 in the USA. According to their website, by 2020, there will be 1.4 million jobs available in computing related fields. US graduates are on track to fill 29% of those jobs.
Women are on track to fill just 3%.
Recent studies have also shown that the issue is not just recruiting and retaining women in science and technology. The problem is also how these careers are perceived.
In March 2016, Always – one of Proctor and Gamble’s biggest brands – noted: “Data from the most recent Always Confidence & Puberty Survey shows that more than half of girls surveyed (54%) feel that female emojis are stereotypical, and 75% of girls would like to see female emojis portrayed more progressively, including professional female emoji options.” Always then launched a successful global Twitter campaign: #LikeAGirl to tackle these stereotypes.
With the likes of Michelle Obama tweeting that she would like to see the emoji of a girl studying which resulted in 5,000 likes and 2,000 retweets, female emojis turned into a mainstream discussion. Earlier last week, four Google employees proposed creating a new set of emojis that ‘represents a wide range of professions for women and men with a goal of highlighting the diversity of women’s careers and empowering girls everywhere.’
The proposed emojis representations include the following sectors:
- Business: accountant, banker, manager
- Healthcare: doctor, dentist
- Science: scientist, chemist
- Education: graduate, teacher, professor
- Technology: software engineer, person coding
- Industry: factory worker, mechanic, plumber
- Farming: farmer
- Food service: chef, cook
- Music: rocker, rock star
So is this a positive step in the right direction or too little too late? We reached out to a few high profile diverse leaders for their thoughts.
"Being the largest search engine used globally means that Google's market dominance leads to it being uniquely placed to influence perceptions and realities on a global scale. As a diversity campaigner who focuses on gender, ethnicity and social background issues, I would like to see these emojis becoming even more diverse in future. However, the current proposal by Google is a very encouraging start along the journey.” Funke Abimbola,
General Counsel & Company Secretary, Roche UK
"The world is moving on and we all have a role to play in changing unfair perceptions. By making these available, they’ll impact all of our natural biases so that the image of a woman is more nuanced, in line with current day thinking, and able to impact young children who won’t balk at the idea that a woman can be a scientist or an electrician." Naheed Afzal,
Co-Founder of Contracts IT
“While I think it is wonderful to have emojis that depict women in STEM jobs, what we really need to work on is ensuring that women are applying and being promoted in these occupations and are having the same opportunities to succeed as their male counterparts. I hope the same creativity, energy and imagination that is being devoted to the creation of women emojis will be devoted to developing bold and innovative programs that will help create a real level playing field for women.” Roberta Liebenberg, Founder of DirectWomen and Partner at Fine, Kaplan and Black