How Microsoft is Championing Women in Tech
Updated: Sep 10, 2019
BY Imogen Usherwood
It’s no secret that the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) industry is a male-dominated one. Just 17% of those working in the UK technology sector are female, and girls make up only 7% of computer science A Level students.
Whether this stems (no pun intended) from a historical precedent that ‘boys do sciences, girls do humanities’, or reflects a continued underestimation of the importance of encouraging women in technology at all levels, from primary education to the world of work, it’s clear that something needs to be done.
In a world where any elite career path is still dominated by men "(in 2018, a survey of the FTSE 100 companies revealed that women hold fewer CEO positions than men named David)”.), science and technology suffers a particular deficit of female workers. As such, STEM companies have to make a conscious effort to promote the role of women, and Microsoft is setting a promising example.
The key to increasing the number of women in technology is to provide as many inspiring examples as possible of women thriving in the STEM sector. In 2018, the Managing Director of IT services company Columbus UK, Mary Hunter, was awarded the IAMCP Women in Tech Leadership Award at the Microsoft Inspire event.
Hunter said she was “passionate about encouraging other women to take up and thrive in technology careers and to help close the gender gap”; certainly, seeing women like Hunter rise to the top of the IT sector, and recognising that achievement with awards such as this one, is sure to set a positive example.
Further to this, Microsoft runs an entire podcast, Women in Business and Technology, dedicated to just that, presented by Harvard graduates and Microsoft Academy alumni Sonia Dara and Colleen O’Brien. The pair interview prominent women in business and technology (as well as male allies to the cause), and discuss programs and agendas designed to promote inclusion.
There is even a Twitter account devoted to women in tech (@MicrosoftWomen); maybe these are only baby steps – after all, a Twitter account won’t change a multi-billion dollar industry overnight, no matter how many followers it has – but every step is a step forward.
These initiatives – combined with a conscious attempt to increase female representation at every level of the company, from interns to senior leaders – have borne fruit in the last few years. From June 2017 to June 2018, Microsoft’s global workforce went from 25.5% to 26.6% women; in leadership, female representation increased from 18.8% to 19.7% over the same time. This may appear to be minimal progress, but the fight for women in tech is an uphill one that will not be solved immediately.
The simple act of publicising the role of women in technology makes a huge difference, as today’s female students sitting in physics lectures or taking GCSE maths will look up to an industry where women are no longer struggling to make their mark among their male colleagues, or were they simply exist as ‘token’ contributions to diversity. We should not underestimate the role of representation in inspiring girls to pursue their ambitions in the STEM sector, and Microsoft’s progress seems to reflect this.