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UN Women’s theme for this year’s International Women’s Day reminds us of the need to recognise the widening digital gender gap and inspire the next generation of women leaders in technology.
Digital transformation is sweeping across the continent, which has created new professional opportunities and exciting developments across all sectors. The demand for innovation and new technology has never been higher. However, in an area where gender disparity is already apparent, the onus is on everyone to play their part in inspiring the next generation of women leaders in technology. If changes aren’t enacted today to motivate more future leaders, the digital gender gap will only continue to widen.
At Kyocera, our pioneering spirit and desire to do the right thing as human beings have guided our innovations and policies since our beginnings in 1959. Productivity and machinery alone aren’t enough for us; we also seek to advance the world around us through human-centric innovations that grant people greater flexibility and the ability to embrace digital transformation.
However, the world of digital innovation desperately needs more women. Inequalities in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) have led to a gender imbalance in positions of leadership. This has widened the digital gender gap and created a knock-on effect that leads to wider gender inequalities as society becomes more digital. For this reason, UN Women have selected the theme “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality” for this year’s International Women’s Day.
Kyocera’s pioneering spirit pushes us to seek areas where we can put knowledge to work and find the answers to the questions that drive our innovations. One of these questions is clear; how can we inspire future generations of women leaders in technology?
The numbers speak for themselves; the technology sector is already plagued by gender inequality. In Europe, women obtain a mere third of all university degrees in STEM subjects. This then leads to women being in the minority in professional positions in technology, with women occupying just 33% of the workforce at the world’s 20 largest technology companies. This means that less women reach positions of leadership – at these same 20 technology companies only 25% of leadership roles are held by women.
If women aren’t involved in advancing technology, gender parity cannot be reached in the digital field. To close the digital gender gap and inspire the digital leaders of tomorrow, female students should be encouraged in their pursuit of STEM subjects. Key to this is having visible role models.
Subtle cues can mark turning points, and the moment when a student decides whether or not to study a STEM-related subject is no different.
From a young age, female and male students are socialised differently. Due to the prevalence of outdated gender norms and beliefs, female students tend to be discouraged from pursuing more technical science and mathematics subjects. According to a recent McKinsey study, female secondary school students receive less “teacher, parental, and peer support” than their male peers when looking to pursue careers in STEM. This, combined with teachers calling on female students less than their male peers in the classroom, unsurprisingly discourages potential future leaders from choosing to study STEM subjects.
If less female students choose to study STEM in the present, the future will lack female leaders in technology and today’s gender inequality will worsen. Due to this decline, McKinsey also predicts that in 2027 only 21% of Europe’s professional technology roles will be held by women. Change needs to take place.
When considering their dream careers, many students will look to well-known role models for inspiration. If these role models look like them, they will be yet more inspiring. Representation matters.
For female students considering a career in a STEM-related field, there is a lack of visible role models to whom they can look up. This is exemplified by the ultimate honour for innovators seeking to better the world around them: the Nobel prize. Since Marie Curie’s historic achievement in 1903, only 22 women have been awarded the Nobel prize in physics, chemistry or medicine. In contrast, there have been 601 male laureates.
If organisations are seeking to motivate tomorrow’s pioneers, they can shine a light on successful women within their own teams. If young women and girls have access to authentic, visible role models, they will see that the field of technology is one in which they can thrive.
By celebrating both women in positions of leadership and rising stars, organisations can provide the next generation of women leaders with an example of who they could become. In addition, this recognition will show current employees how much their organisation values their contribution, thus reducing the possibility of an employee taking their talent elsewhere due to feeling underappreciated.
At Kyocera, our motivation to do the right thing as human beings has seen us implement plans to shine a light on the women in our teams and provide them with a platform to share their experiences and successes as women in technology. To be pioneers in technology, we must also walk the walk in celebrating the successes of our colleagues and giving them the visibility to be the role models of the future women leaders in technology, on International Women’s Day and beyond.
Progress won’t be achieved overnight, and inspiring the next generation of female leaders in technology isn’t an objective that we can achieve solely on International Women’s Day. However, by ensuring that female students are supported to the same extent as their male counterparts and that they can look up to role models, we can close the digital gender gap and look towards a brighter and more equal future in technology.
“To be pioneers in technology, we must also walk the walk”