Pressing for progress for women in technology

This International Women’s Day, the focus is on striving for gender parity: equal representation, pay, and status for women in every segment and sector of society. With a call to #pushforprogress, there is real momentum to improve opportunities for women around the world. One topic which presents both challenges and opportunities in this regard is the issue of digital skills, which are fast becoming the key to succeeding in our cloud-first world.

In 2016, Eurostat released data relating to how far digital skills are acquired across the gender divide, but also how far these are being applied by women pursuing careers in the ICT sector. The key takeaway? In most European countries women are still slightly behind men in terms of their level of digital skills, and they are still far from holding a majority of positions within the ICT sector.

The map below delves into the gender divide on digital skills a little further. On average, the gap between men and women is quite narrow: 55% of all European men can be considered digitally skilled, while the same figure for women is just over 53%. However, of the 31 countries surveyed, the balanced tipped in favor of women in just five: Cyprus, Latvia, Bulgaria, Finland, and Macedonia (the red bubbles below). In all other countries, the gender divide was either null (France and Slovenia, for instance, have the same percentage of digitally-skilled men and women) or tipped in favor of men.

While the gap between digitally-skilled men and women may not be so pronounced, this is sadly not the case when it comes to women pursuing careers in ICT. Eurostat data shows that, in 2016, women represented fewer than 19% of all IT specialists in Europe. Some countries are doing better than others, of course: Cyprus, Bulgaria and Ireland all have over 29% of their workforces made up of women. On the other hand, the Netherlands and Croatia lag even further behind the average, with just 11% and 6% of women in their ICT workforces respectively.

What is most worrying about these findings is the fact that, despite considerable efforts from policymakers, industry and educators alike, the share of women working in ICT has fallen, not risen In 2006, women made up 23% of the workforce. Fast forward a decade, and that figure has dropped by to below one-fifth of the total workforce.

Clearly there is more work to be done in helping women succeed within the technology sector. Without greater efforts in this regard, we risk missing out on the potential of a whole swathe of the population. At Microsoft, we know that the more diverse our sector, the more innovative, creative and cutting-edge it can be. That’s why we have wide range of programs aimed at recruiting and retaining women into computer science and ICT careers: from fostering young girls’ interest in coding and STEM subjects through campaigns like #MakeWhatsNext, to providing exclusive mentoring and training opportunities to women working in ICT throughout their careers. We’re pushing for progress – and we don’t plan to stop anytime soon.

Thomas Roca
Economist & Data Strategist, PhD

Thomas is an Economist and Data Strategist at Microsoft European and Government Affairs in Brussels. He digs into data to study labour mobility, skills’ evolution and the future of work. Before joining Microsoft, Thomas held different positions within the French administration, as a researcher and statistician then as data officer, fostering the use of big data for policy making. He collaborated with the United Nations serving as a visiting research fellow at the Human Development Report Office in New York. As a research fellow with Data-Pop Alliance he gives data literacy and code training to students and UN staff. His ambition: democratizing data-science for social good.