Have organisations really moved forward with gender equality in tech?

James Milligan, Global Head of Technology Solutions

September saw us host a live event in partnership with Silicon Republic. The panel discussion, titled “Technology Matters: How is the inclusion movement faring?”, aimed to explore how gender equality has moved forward in tech across the globe. To inform the discussion, we invited female leaders from non-profit organisations that are dedicated to gender equality in tech to share their views.

Joining host Ann O’Dea, Co-Founder of Silicon Republic, were:

You can watch the event back in full on LinkedIn here. I’ve included some of the highlights below.

Have we made any progress regarding gender equality in tech in the last 10-15 years?

A broad question to open up. However, if we need to know where we want to be, we firstly need to be brutally honest about where we are.

First, to Joanne for her summary: “The doors haven’t been blown open… what I have seen in terms of progress are these groundswell movements that have lit a lot of fires, but the big burn hasn’t come yet”. She acknowledges the growing awareness in the wake of the #MeToo movement, and welcomes those who want to speak up.

Anne-Marie remembers when people still needed to be convinced that inequality and sexism was a problem in tech. To her, we’ve moved on from “denial” to what is now “lip service”. In her words, we’re admitting this a problem, but we still see some people pretend to care when their actions suggest otherwise. Rhea echoes this, citing the increase in female-founded unicorns in 2021 which, while still far from ideal, is nonetheless encouraging.

Are you seeing a change in how women perceive working in tech?

Rhea, who is based in Singapore, points out that female tech founders are role models for girls and young women. While attending start-up competitions and events with She Loves Tech, she has seen people bring their daughters who are interested in this world.

The new workforce, Anne-Marie notes, have a different definition of success that’s been formed by their environment. These people don’t just want a big salary, but are also trying to make a difference and create a positive change for others. Unlike previous generations, they’re not necessarily coming into tech after having studied maths or science. Instead, they’ve developed skills in other areas before finding their calling in tech (something we hear about a lot in our ‘How Did You Get That Job?’ podcast series).

Through her work with Teen-Turn (where I am proud to sit on the board), Joanne notices that teens are now finding role models within their own age group and circles. This can only be a good thing, as it means that young women have more inspiration than ever before. As Joanne says of the panel: “We got out while we could – and now we’re coming back with reinforcements!”

How do organisations attract and retain women in tech?

For Rhea, it’s a case of how we frame this issue. Working toward gender equality in tech shouldn’t be seen as “extra work” - we can’t present it in this way because people won’t want feel as though they’re making an effort. When it comes to start-ups, she stresses the importance of “more women on both sides of the table” in terms of investors and founders.

Joanne explains that organisations need to be honest with themselves. By doing this, they’ll be able to make their environment more welcoming and attractive. Anne-Marie gives some examples of this. She looks at the ways in which women are overlooked for promotion and are underrepresented in leadership to this day.

For me, she summed it up the above perfectly: “It’s crazy that it still needs to be said”. However, it’s a conversation that we need to have if we’re to make real progress in this area. Organisations, leaders and candidates are all missing out as it stands.

Watch the event back in full here.


James Milligan
Global Head of Technology Solutions

James Milligan is the Global Head of Technology Solutions at Hays, having joined in 2000. In his role, he is responsible for the strategic development of Hays' technology businesses globally.