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The Gender Agenda: Women in Tech

Published on 09/03/2021

The tech industry is booming globally. Tech permeates every corner of our lives, and has been the saviour of the pandemic: keeping companies running, families connected, and people entertained whilst being stuck indoors for months at a time. With this in mind, why do women only make up 16.4% of tech professionals?

Like finance, tech is a male dominated industry and much has been written about the discrimination facing women - especially women of colour - in the toxic “bro-culture” percolating in Silicon Valley and beyond. From the 2017 resignation of Uber founder Travis Kalanick after accusations of him creating a sexist work culture arose, to the Ellen Pao 2015 discrimination lawsuit against Reddit, or AJ Vandermayden’s 2016 lawsuit against Tesla.

With an overarching theme of male domination in the tech space, women are often put off a career when they don’t see role models in their desired industry. Try and name one senior woman in tech, and you’d struggle to get anyone other than Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of the best selling book Lean In. When asked to think of senior men in tech and you’d run out of fingers pretty quickly.

Tech is also a STEM subject - science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Statistics from 2018 show that only 9% of those graduating from a STEM subject were female, so the talent pool is pretty slim. Then of those women who do beat the odds, 45% of them leave in a year, leaving - you guessed it - no role models.

Women and men navigate life in different ways, whether that is down to biology, experience or patriarchal norms, or of course, a mix of these things. Nicola Anderson is chief marketing officer at MyTutor, was recently quoted in a Guardian article as saying: “As in other industries, women in tech often won’t apply for a job if they don’t feel they’re 100% qualified or have exactly the right experience,” she says. “As a result, women end up moving horizontally where their male peers progress.

According to a recent IWD article, 73% of women experience bias at work - yet less than a third of employees are able to recognise bias when they see it. It could be unconscious bias or down right sexism: a snide remark, an assumption, a bad 'joke', an exclusion. Despite this being 2021, women are routinely subject to different standards, and remuneration than their male counterparts. They get fewer promotions, they are paid less, and are often penalised for taking maternity leave.

There is much being done to rectify this discrimination, but there is a way to go. Which is why the International Women’s Day theme of “Choose to Challenge” is so powerful. It’s about challenging so-called norms to enable a gender equal workplace and a gender equal world.

As a fintech company, operating in one of the most diverse and exciting cities in the world, and looking to make investing open to everyone, Upside is on the precipice of change. Without all perspectives, whether gender, race, background, opinion, we are unable to build a piece of tech for everyone: it’s crucial to have a balanced workforce when it comes to sharing ideas, leadership and creativity for new projects.

We hire based on qualifications, yes, but also on grit, passion, and dedication. We hire problem solvers, people who want to be challenged, who want to learn and grow, curious innovators who work with integrity and most importantly enjoy what they do. As a company, we are constantly seeking to expand our talent pool across all areas including gender, race, background, interests, opinions - especially since our gender diversity is (at present) lacking.

The Upside investment ecosystem itself is designed to avoid biases, and rank users on skill alone, as all users are anonymised. This creates a new kind of competition, one built outside of the sexism that may still exist in workplaces and offices.

In the words of Sheryl Sandberg, “No industry or country can reach its full potential until women reach their full potential. This is especially true of science and technology, where women with a surplus of talent still face a deficit of opportunity”.

At Upside we are choosing to challenge, every day. There’s no science to it, it’s just right.

To learn more about International Women’s Day click here.

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