Consumers come in all manner of gender identities, but the teams that create the tech products or solutions for them do not.
Ever since technology began to evolve in the mid-1960s, there has always been a male dominance in the field, despite efforts to officially acknowledge and then change it. Reliable evidence shows that women certainly have the talent and expertise to participate in this industry (the science, technology, engineering and mathematics [STEM] world in general), yet are still largely unrepresented in these professions at almost all levels.
Recognising the causes and then changing this fact has proven to be virtually impossible up until now, and solutions offered have been largely ineffective. Project F has taken up this challenge head-on.
Another International Women’s’ Day is on the immediate horizon, this year’s theme being #EachForEqual, and once again talk about the lack of professional representation of women is heard from the mouths of influential men and women across various industries.
We certainly know by now that it must happen, but still, it doesn’t. The ideas are sound, the passion is certainly believable, and various policies are sometimes actioned to try and ensure more women enter the tertiary requirements for these desired workforces. Even if the entry requirements for these courses are lower for female applicants, does this guarantee more women will apply? Not if they don’t see have a clear line of sight of an achievable career path, with a view of many other women having achieved it. Sadly, there are not enough relatable women in STEM-related positions.
If women do fight their way into these positions, then they still do not receive the equivalent financial remuneration as their male counterparts.
It is no wonder that women tend to make the smart decision and apply to study in an area where they are guaranteed a job with greater career potential. Where they don’t have to smash down a glass ceiling single handily, where they don’t find themselves in boardrooms that have the atmosphere as of a locker room.
Most women want to go to work and do their job, not fight like a superhero whilst doing their job and still making less money than their male peers. What a slap in the face!
Women can also find themselves marked with invisible expiry dates too. For example, the expectation that women of a certain age will likely leave to give birth, parent or even grandparent. Men, on the other hand, face none of these expectations and can enjoy a clear professional run, unencumbered by real or perceived personal circumstances they may or may not face.
These problems are present in nearly all industries and professions, some more so than others, like STEM. These traditionally male-dominated arenas are therefore lagging as far as gender balance goes. There are many leaders in these fields, including myself, who do not believe that this is a problem meant to be solved by individuals alone.
When designed solutions are consumed by people of all genders, yet created by just one, then as a society we have a real problem. We simply cannot expect that these solutions will be useful to everyone, when a homogenous group created them.
And, finally, many tech organisations are starting to realise this too. One example of this was when the Apple Watch health app initially completely missed the mark for its women customers. Because it was designed by men, all data and measurements was based on male physiology. Womens’ menstrual cycles were omitted altogether.
Project F is a Sydney based company, founded by Emma Jones, that is dedicated to addressing this problem directly with all companies who have technology teams. Diversity of gender is beneficial for people, culture and profitability, right across the spectrum. It was with this fact in mind that Project F was born.
The company has a small team of dedicated experts that help companies build more diverse, and therefore better, teams. They do this is by uncovering the systemic and structural barriers that exist to ensure the vast majority of women will not abandon their tech career mid-way (currently 56% do!).
Project F is leading the way by discovering and then addressing the problem with their solution that is strategic, holistic and progressive. Project F engages clients on a program that surfaces the primary, systemic drivers that cause women to seek alternative careers. Often Project F can create a difference to those companies right away, for example by immediately pipelining female tech talent to support growth.
Another way Project F delivers impact is through mentoring. I participate in” their mentoring program, supporting another woman in tech in developing her leadership and business skills because I believe that “if you see it, you can be it.” Visibility of women leaders and mentoring emerging talent is crucial in elevating other women in STEM.
Organisations that are serious about making a difference are encouraged to sign up with Project F to ensure gender diversity happens in an effective way. Also, when an organisation pledges commitment to this program, it sends an incredibly powerful message to women in the industry that this company is creating an environment conducive to improving women employees’ careers. Better balanced teams create more desirable results, so consumers benefit too.