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The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) is gender equity. The campaign has been designed to drive worldwide understanding about why equal opportunities aren’t enough. Just like everyone supporting this year’s campaign, we know gender equity should be something that is thought about, valued and pursued routinely, which is why we not only want to share our team’s equity experiences and talk about what we’ve done, we want to talk about our plans to progress and embed equity.

Equity and equality

First, the difference between equity and equality needs to be understood. Equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources and opportunities. Equity recognises that each person has different circumstances, and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome. A subtle, but critical difference.

This is the 23rd year of IWD and whilst there has been significant progress in that time, equality and equity are still a way off. Lack of representation remains a big issue for companies operating in the technology space and must be tackled. Here at Cloudscaler, we are keenly aware of this and have grasped the challenge.

What’s the current status

Cloudscaler has approximately 38% female representation company-wide, but this figure drops to 14% if we narrow the focus to those in technical roles, as opposed to HR, Finance and Marketing.  This sits against a context in which the latest global women in tech statistics reveal that the percentage of overall female representation in tech jobs sits at around 25%. Compared to 2019, that’s a 2.6% increase – the movement is in the right direction, but is too slow. Things appear to be worse in the UK than the global average, as Tech Nation found that only 19% of tech workers in the UK are women so there is work to be done for a nation that says it wants to grow its digital economy and become a global tech superpower.

An encouraging stat from TechRadius is that 37% of tech start-ups have one or more women on their boards of directors. A recent report following a government-backed review in the UK showed that the proportion of women in board roles in Britain’s biggest listed companies has risen above 40% for the first time – up 3% in 2022. The trend appears to be paying off, as the increased representation correlates with an increase in success; statistics indicate that companies with women in leading positions are doing better. Women Who Tech found that Fortune 500 companies with at least three women in leading positions saw a 66% increase in ROI. This is reflected in the UK, as Tech Nation found that diverse boards (all other things being equal) see 0.7% higher turnover than non-diverse tech company boards.

Jackie Keane, Co-founder of Cloudscaler commented: “I have seen considerable change in female representation across the industry during the 20+ years I have worked in the UK technology sector. It was rare for women to work in tech in any capacity when I started, let alone attaining a leadership role – that wasn’t even on the horizon. Thankfully, the world has moved on from that deeply unhealthy position, but there is still so much more to be done and the pace is not quick enough to achieve gender equity and the very real value that will unleash.”

What can be done

To effect changes in the workforce, we need to look upstream and the nature of the education girls receive. In particular, we need to focus on the proportion of girls in school studying science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and the numbers that go on to study STEM subjects in higher education. Figures released last year found that although the percentage has been increasing over time, just 35% of STEM students in higher education are women so evidently there is more to be done to encourage females to study STEM subjects and then move on to a career in STEM.

Sam Blanks, our Senior Marketing Manager, studied Engineering at Exeter University and graduated in the 90s. At that time only about 10% of those studying engineering were female. She says: “When I was choosing what to study there were government and industry schemes to encourage girls to study STEM subjects. I also had great science teachers who were women. But being one of ten studying engineering wasn’t easy. Not all of the others completed the course and, of those that did, not all have gone on to work in STEM. I know some who went on to graduate schemes in engineering but dropped out because of the gender bias. I’d like to think that things are different for women who will graduate this year compared to back then – that’s why I support International Women’s Day as well as initiatives to encourage more females to study STEM subjects and work in tech.

Matthew Swift, Senior Cloud Platform Engineer, studied Computer Science at Loughborough University graduating in 2014 and cites the same figure of 10% women on his course. He says: “I believe strongly in doing anything I can to see better representation in our industry and would like to think that things have changed since I was at university”.  He contacted Loughborough for its current stats, which revealed that the total percentage of women studying at the Computer Science Faculty this academic year is 17%. Claudia Eberlein, Dean of the School of Science at Loughborough University comments:  “Loughborough University [works] very hard to try and encourage women into STEM subjects and into Computer Science in particular. The School has appointed three Women in Science ambassadors to support this work. The department is proud to have a very good gender ratio in its computer science staff – more highly successful female staff than normally found at UK universities. Since role models are extremely important, I believe this is an excellent contribution towards improving the gender balance in Computer Science.”

Evidently there is progress in terms of women studying STEM in higher education but what about before that? Changes in school curriculum and the use of technology are plainly making a difference. Microsoft Minecraft Education (formerly Minecraft: Education Edition) is an educational edition of Minecraft specifically designed for classroom use. It was released in 2016 and aims to spark a passion for STEM at a young age and can be used to teach coding. Gamification and making tech fun will no doubt help, as will the inclusion and easier accessibility of more tech subjects as curriculum options. Just last week Putney High School was in the news for offering its pupils computer programming language Python as a language alongside French, German and Mandarin. It would be great to see this type of initiative become more widespread. Changes like these will hopefully see a real shift in girls studying STEM at GCSE and in higher education.

Outside education, there are significant opportunities for employers to further effect changes in representation – flexible working to suit working parents, apprenticeships that can help those leaving school to pursue a career in technology, and schemes to help women retrain within technical fields can also make a difference.

Jackie adds: “As a female founder of a tech startup, I know we can all make a difference in everything we do. We can all challenge gender stereotypes, call out discrimination, draw attention to bias, and seek meaningful inclusion.  Women are under-represented in technology and leadership roles, and here at Cloudscaler our Academy is just one initiative to ensure that our team represents the diverse society we live in.

What are we doing?

Last year, Cloudscaler launched its Academy. Our first two Academy graduates are Pamela Eteng and Adeola Olawuyi. Both had taken the decision to change careers. Pamela was previously working as a Biomedical Scientist and Adeola as a Senior Support Worker. With a strong belief that cloud technology offered significant opportunities in terms of a new career, Pamela and Adeola had successfully completed the Amazon Web Services (AWS) re/Start bootcamp and then applied to the Cloudscaler Academy to further develop their technical skills. Both are now putting their new skills into action as platform engineers and feel passionately about encouraging more women into technology.

Adeola says: “We will only see further changes in representation by increasing visibility. Women need to see more female role models and leaders in the tech industry that inspire and motivate them. We also need to ensure girls are exposed to technology from a young age to help spark their interest and passion. I’d like to see more coding camps and tech workshops in schools.

Pamela added: “I think access to the right training is key. More companies need to recruit and retrain more women. They need to support them with the right materials and tools to build their skills and expertise, which is exactly what Cloudscaler has done. I also think that if more tech companies offer flexible and remote working, it will encourage more women into tech.

Here at Cloudscaler, we set our own targets in terms of representation and think carefully about the steps to take to achieve them. Later this year, we will recruit for the next intake into our Academy and hope to see as many applications from women, as we do men. We are also exploring working with non-profit organisations who have a focus on closing the gender gap and building the pipeline of future female engineers.

Today, as we support International Women’s Day, our focus is on ensuring that we’re doing things that will make a tangible, enduring difference every day.