Stop sending women to gender equality seminars!

The time when only women in the technology industry participate in gender equality seminars and voluntarily carry the torch for diversity is over. It is high time for the entire industry, regardless of gender, to take responsibility.

According to ODA Network's survey on the proportion of women in ICT professions, the proportion of women has remained nearly stagnant at around 30 percent over the past eight years. From inspiring young talents in educational institutions to fostering an inclusive culture within companies, we must work collectively to close the gender gap.

It requires more than just financial support - it demands active participation and engagement from all sides.

Everyone has a responsibility

In recent years, I have been actively involved in various organizations and initiatives dedicated to fostering diversity in the technology industry, spanning from education to corporate environments and up to leadership levels. These organizations are mostly driven by volunteers, primarily women.

The corporate sector is enthusiastic about supporting these organizations, aiding their efforts by organizing seminars and providing financial assistance.

However, recent articles in Digi indicate that this is not enough. We need both genders on board.

In Norway, according to statistics from Statistics Norway (SSB), 85 percent of leaders in ICT units are men. It is these individuals who are in the best position to drive change in diversity within the industry. We must stop sending women to gender equality seminars and start sending men.

1. Sharing experiences with the next generation of technologists

Visit educational institutions and showcase the opportunities in working with technology. Demonstrate how one can positively impact society through technology, such as within healthcare, finance, and other typical professions that women often choose instead of technology. Here, we also have an opportunity to inspire a new generation of technologists with skills and experiences emphasizing the importance of user-centered development and diversity within developer teams

2. Promoting women's role in technology

Women in male-dominated industries may feel lonely in the workplace. Companies should actively work to create an inclusive work culture for female developers. It could be beneficial to promote mentorship programs within or outside the workplace and, importantly, to highlight role models. Support, showcase, and lower the threshold for female colleagues to see themselves as role models. They are needed, and there are too few. Among other reasons, many experience IT leadership groups as pure boys' clubs, according to surveys.

Alis Wiken Wilson is a frontend developer at Forte Digital

3. Broader perspectives and increased creativity

Every third woman in technical roles experiences being the only woman in the room at work. Be conscious of how you assemble teams. Diverse teams bring forth broader perspectives, creativity, and positive dynamics. It's a win-win situation for both the company and employees. It's important to regularly engage with all team members to ensure that minorities thrive and that their voices are heard and valued.

4. Increase the number of male participants in gender equality seminars

Every year, several conferences and lectures focusing on the gender gap in male-dominated sectors are organized. A recurring pattern is that the majority of participants are women who are already aware of the issue. Engage your male employees to attend conferences and seminars that discuss and share experiences on this topic. It's a golden opportunity to gain an open and honest insight into different perspectives on how women experience working in a male-dominated industry.

5. Openness and dialogue in the workplace

Allow space for discussing these issues in the workplace. Half of all women in IT technical jobs have experienced harassment. That's a significant number. Look around, they are sitting next to you. Attending an annual lecture isn't enough. Real progress requires ongoing engagement through dialogue and sharing experiences in smaller groups. This can lead to deeper reflection and a greater understanding of the issues when involving employees on a more personal and engaging level. At the same time, try not to solely rely on women in the companies to take this responsibility.

Top management responsibility

Not all women want or have the energy to carry the torch for gender equality at work. In fact, most simply want to go to work without being harassed, overlooked, or serving as a figurehead for the fight for women's rights. Bring in external help and make it a leadership responsibility.

As an industry in constant flux, we must acknowledge our responsibility in shaping a future where technology and services are inclusive and accessible to all. By taking active steps to promote diversity and eradicate stereotypes, we ensure that the technology industry evolves not only rapidly but also fairly and inclusively.

So, think twice before making that comment, encourage women around you to take up space, and get yourself to seminars.