October is a month of awareness. It’s the month of Pink October and the European month of cybersecurity.
In this sense, ActiveSys prepared an article that intends to demonstrate the participation of the female gender in technology, in order to promote the interest of this area to young students.
Despite the visible evolution that promises to attenuate the difference between genders in the areas of technologies, the great gender disparity that exists is still notorious.
Female participation in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) areas is lower than expected, given the number of women.
Women have always been present in TIC, having played a fundamental role in the field of technology throughout history. Among all, we highlight Ada Lovelace, Hedy Lamarr and Margaret Hamilton.
Ada Lovelace created the first algorithm to be processed by a machine, having been considered, thanks to this, the first programmer in history, despite having lived in the nineteenth century, a time when computers did not exist.
In turn, Hedy Lamarr was responsible for creating the basis for Wi-Fi. It was during a great historical period, that of World War II, that the austrian created a device that interfered with the radio, in order to evade Nazi radar.
Finally, Margaret Hamilton was director of the renowned MIT laboratory, having been responsible for developing the flight program used by the Apollo 11 project – the first mission that took Man to the moon.
From a very early age, unconsciously or consciously, a division is made between what is considered appropriate for a girl to study, or not. According to society, despite the gradual attenuation, the areas of engineering, science and technology are considered more suitable for the male gender. Due to these stereotypes, we find that only 1% of 15-year-old girls are interested in information technology, according to the Project Pisa 2018 report.
Official data on women with a degree in TIC show that, since 1999, the trend has been mostly a decrease. In 1999, that percentage was fixed at 26%, having decreased to 17.5% in 2009 and, in 2019, it recovered to 21%.
In the year 2020, in Portugal, the percentage of women in STEM careers was 31%, a percentage that tends to increase, since engineering courses are at the top of the list of accesses, interests and highest grades.
In 2019, Portuguese Women in Tech released a study that identified the main reasons that kept women away from the technology sector. Among the most varied options, the slow salary growth, the low possibility of career growth and sexism stood out.
In fact, women point out several factors that limit interest to technological areas, from prejudices, social norms, pre-established expectations and social pressure. Consultant Deloitte, in partnership with A Portuguese Women in Tech and Polar Insight, conducted a study on the Portuguese technological market. Of this study, 78% of the women surveyed said they had already heard sexist comments, 72% of the respondents said they had already been ignored, until a male member had said it in exactly the same way, and 74% announced that they had already heard assumptions of only having a job because of being a woman.
Despite the fact that TIC is expanding worldwide, and is greatly driven by the pandemic, Portuguese female representation, both at school and in specialized positions in TIC, is below the European average. In Portugal, according to a Eurostat study released by SAPOTek, of the more than 26 thousand (26.235) students in ICT areas in 2016, 86.7% were male, while Portuguese students in this area were just over three thousand (3.497), a percentage (13.3%) below the European average.
According to PORDATA data, we inferred the discrepancy between higher education graduates in TIC in Portugal. In the year 2020, the male total was around 5.534, while the female total reached 1.396. The year in which this marked difference was most observed was 2010 and 2011.
Studies reveal that, often, in addition to the prejudice created by society, women are not aware of the potential of this area and the existing opportunities. Still, when they enter this area out of passion, they encounter obstacles such as little female representation and low salary and career progression. Still, tradition and family issues, such as motherhood, are other factors that tend to drive women away from the technology industry.
However, despite all the aforementioned obstacles, there are many advantages to entering the TIC market. The most obvious is the growing demand for qualified professionals, which has increased thanks to the digitalization process, driven by the pandemic, and the growing appearance of start-ups and technology companies in Portugal.
According to research by Robert Walters, a renowned recruitment consultant, 8 out of 10 companies admit they have difficulty finding specialized technology talent. In fact, the need for these workers is so great that Portugal has programs whose objective is to attract international talent, such as Tech Visa.
In addition to the demand factor, salaries are also an important issue since the salaries of IT professionals are the ones that have risen the most in Portugal, being considered one of the best paid areas in our country, according to the study “Salary Survey 2020” by Roger Walters.
Despite all these indicators, Portugal has several projects with the purpose of encouraging and supporting women in STEM areas, such as the She Codes academy, Girls in Tech, which promotes interaction between secondary and higher education students in STEM areas and also the Portuguese Women in Tech, already mentioned, a community aimed at introducing Portuguese women who are improving the technological industry and which essentially seeks to reinforce the image that there is space for each one of them in the technological and entrepreneurial world, a world in which Portugal was ranked, in 2019, as the 10th country with the highest percentage of women entrepreneurs, with 30.2%, according to a study by Mastercard.
Even though it is considered the Industry of the Future, this market presents a huge social imbalance, since, looking at the last 40 years, it appears that 90% of licenses related to information technology will have been created by composed teams, mostly , by the male gender and only 2% of these teams included women.
This is the reality, the abysmal difference seen in the STEM areas, despite the statistical data that prove that having a diversified team is beneficial for any company, whether in the technology sector or in another.
However, data are not enough and it is crucial that there is a consistent change in the educational setup, which will bring the necessary change that society needs, in order to increase the quality of work and the skilled and necessary workforce in technological areas.