Women in Tech. We think about it.

Women are in the minority in the tech industry. 

Does this matter?

Well, it does matter, quite significantly! Quite apart from the negative impact on individuals, the detrimental effect on social environments and the wasted potential, there’s a large and growing body of evidence for the positive impact of good gender balance in teams.

Gender diverse teams perform better and they’re smarter. Diverse teams are more likely to focus on facts rather than shared opinions. They also process information more carefully and tend to expose inherent biases. They’re also more productive.

Homogeneous teams may seem more effective, as there’s less conflict or awkwardness, and certainly, they feel easier, but easy is death to innovation. Companies with more women are more likely to introduce radical innovation to the market. Not to mention that companies with more female executives are generally more profitable, and firms with better gender diversity have more sales, customers and profits.

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Gender diverse teams are more productive

But perhaps the most interesting findings are around how diversity in a team has a greater impact on good decision making than individual competencies within that team. Let’s just think about that. Essentially, if you want the best results, it’s not just about putting your best people in a room. It’s about giving careful consideration to the composition and dynamics of that team. To put it bluntly, it’s better to include a woman in your all-male team even if there’s a man who would do that particular job better.

Now let’s make this a little more personal. How’s Torchbox doing? We compiled some data about the gender balance of our teams:

  • Women make up 38% of Torchbox
  • The departments with the best gender ratios are project management, search & analytics and frontend development
  • The departments with the worst gender ratios are senior management, account direction and the tech team 

Even though our overall proportions are looking good in comparison to the industry average, we’ve still got significant work to do to make sure we’re taking advantage of gender balance in the groups responsible for our key decision-making.

What’s gone wrong?

Let’s start at the beginning. For the data lovers amongst you, here are some stats:

  • Last year girls outperformed boys in all science, engineering, mathematics and technology subjects at school
  • However, only 9.8% of pupils taking Computing at A Level were girls
  • When we look at university stats, only 35% of STEM degrees were taken by women and only 30% of those women moved into a position in a compatible field
  • Less surprising then, that when we look at employment in the tech industry as a whole, only 17% are women

When employers speak about the difficulties in hiring diverse teams, one of the common problems they raise is the number of diverse applications. For any position in a tech company, the number of applications from women and people from minorities is often significantly less or non-existent. The more senior the position, the worse this problem gets.

So if we immediately join these dots, we reach the conclusion that one significant contributor to gender imbalance is the so-called ‘drop-off rate’, as in, the contributing factors that mean less women move through the right funnel, and therefore less women compete for jobs, and subsequently less women successfully secure good positions in tech companies.


How does your team measure up?

So what can we do?

There are two approaches any employer can take. They can actively encourage women in the workplace, and try to remove the barriers they face. Practically speaking, this could look like the following:

  1. Change the Culture Sure, much of the work that needs to be done to encourage young girls into STEM subjects lies out of the control of individual organisations, but there are still initiatives out there that can make a huge difference. Torchbox is a proud sponsor of Codebar who offer free support and training to underrepresented groups in tech. Several of our team members are involved in Django Girls, which aims to train women coders. Watch this space - we’re hoping to host our first Django Girls conference this year! 
  2. Address the specific problems women face Some obvious barriers to women’s promotion and progression can be directly tackled, and Torchbox is committed to doing so. These range from eradicating the gender pay gap, to making it easier for employees to undertake flexible working arrangements to balance family life. We’re lucky to work in an industry where this is more feasible than most and we’re working hard to constantly improve our offering.

Promote Diverse Teams

When considering the make-up of a project team, we’re going to be thinking carefully about the dynamics of that team. Some have gone as far as to conduct personality tests to do this successfully. It’s also important to promote varied ways of working. We don’t want our teams to be dominated by traditional, extroverted (sometimes considered alpha male) modes of operation. We equally favour introverted experimentation and imagination in our processes. And of course, we want to make sure we consider gender balance when filling our senior or more influential positions.

What does this mean for me?

If you’re a woman in tech and you’re looking for a job, we’d love to hear from you! We especially want to hear from developers, and applicants for our more senior positions. Research suggests that women tend to downplay their skills more often - so be bold!

On a personal note, I feel positive about Torchbox’s attitude towards promoting gender balance in the workplace and what that means for the future. I count myself lucky to work with a fantastic team made up of extremely talented men and women. Who knows - perhaps soon you’ll be one of them.

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Ellen Haggan

Ellen HagganSenior Project Manager