It is paradoxical that given that the majority of university students in Spain who obtain better results than their peers are women (54%), it is in the ‘scientific or technical field’ where there is a less significant presence of women. This is reflected in current statistics on the presence of women in Sciences, since in the field of Engineering they account for less than a quarter of the total number of students and only 12% in some technical degrees. In light of these data, we should ask ourselves why girls and female adolescents do not choose a technological or science degree.
One of the factors is social conditioning, since girls are not encouraged to participate in extracurricular activities that enhance engineering skills. Frequently, the stereotype of “geeks” associated with computer science discourages Science students from opting for purely technological degrees and instead they choose others with more positive connotations for the female gender, such as Health Sciences.
Paradox of equality
A study in the journal Psychological Science, which analyses studies in Science and Engineering, concludes that the more gender equality there is in a country (according to the World Economic Forum Gender Equality Index), the lower the percentage of women who study Engineering and technical degrees.
In fact, countries such as Albania and Algeria have a higher percentage of women among their engineering graduates than countries such as Norway, Sweden and Finland, which are considered as benchmarks for gender equality in Europe. For example, in Algeria women graduating in Engineering, Science or Technology represent 41% of the total, compared with 14% in the USA.
If we consider that more and more women are born than men, the lack of gender diversity in technology companies would lead to a drought in female computer science, physics and mathematics professionals in the future. This disparity has worsened over time, since compared with 30% of women who graduated in Computer Science years ago, there are currently only 17% both in Spain and outside our country.
In the workplace, only 30% of professionals working in the sector in Europe are women, and in Spain they represent 18%, according to data from the Ministry of Social Services and Equality. In the case of Alvantia, the proportion of women in the workforce stands at 38%.
Salary gap and leadership position
Another factor that determines the presence of women in IT is the possibility of work and family life balance, since the IT profile is associated with intense working days, total availability and dedication outside normal working hours. The creation of equal employment conditions, which provide for development opportunities and better time management, are key to attracting female talent, according to female standard-bearers in the sector.
Caroline Ragot, co-founder of Women in Mobile and Mobile Strategist at Schibsted Spain, proposes giving more visibility to women in the technology sector to motivate girls and female adolescents to dream of creating their own apps, robots, building lego structures, etc. and show them that they too are cut out for the IT sector.
The General Director of Google Spain and Portugal, Fuencisla Clemares, highlights the fact that there is no salary discrimination according to gender in her company and the implementation of internal measures to ensure work and family life balance and improve the conditions of maternity and paternity leave. She insists on the empowerment of all employees and the awareness of companies, and highlights the need for legislation in this regard.
To motivate and encourage the presence of women in this sector, various programmes have already been created. Examples are the Ada Byron Award, organised by the University of Deusto, which recognises women dedicated to Research and Technological Development, and the Technovation Challenge project, in which the company Talengo collaborates thanks to its Associate Director, Juan Díaz Andreu, one of the promoters of this project in Spain.
Technovation Challenge is an initiative to promote the presence of women in ICT through non-profit programmes in various countries, designed to inspire girls and female adolescents to pursue careers in technology and entrepreneurship. Since 2010, more than 21,000 girls have participated in this programme (our country has been participating in it since 2016). It encourages teamwork between females aged from 10 to 18 years to work on applications to solve problems related to health, education, etc. In addition to learning how to program, young women participate in a global competition with girls of different nationalities.
Female scientific and technological degree students are also the protagonists of the first edition of the Wonnow Awards, the new prize that CaixaBank and Microsoft have just announced to reward the excellence of women in technical degrees.
Solution: to break stereotypes
According to various studies, in the future a significant number of jobs will be created that will require knowledge in technology and engineering. If we take into account the fact that these positions correspond to positions of power, are well paid and carry with them high social recognition, it is imperative to boost the presence of women in technological degrees to prevent the increase of gender inequality and the salary gap in the future.
By way of conclusion, we must invite young women to become aware of the need for change, either through business initiatives or specific programmes to promote it. If we disregard this disparity we will pay for it in the long run, as inequality will increase.
Society must be aware that gender diversity produces wealth and that the technology and IT sectors need qualified women who can contribute their skills, creativity and all their potential to improve the society in which we live.