Imagining a future with more women in tech and engineering
“Close your eyes and imagine an engineer. What do you see?”
That was the opening question posed by my colleague Somaya El Marrakchi during a fantastic Women in Technology panel discussion I took part in last month at Ericsson’s offices in Madrid.
Somaya’s question was designed to challenge established stereotypes and unconscious bias when we think of what an engineer might look like.
I’ve spent my career working in tech. From my experiences at Vodafone and Samsung to a stint in the USA heading up global marketing for engineering business Tektronix, I’ve always actively encouraged girls and young women to pursue careers in tech. It’s a thread that’s run through my professional life. Twenty years ago, when I started out in software engineering marketing at PTC, I was proud to run a campaign called ‘Engineering is cool for kids.’ Today at Ericsson I’m continuing that journey.
Changing the narrative
In January McKinsey published a report ‘Women in tech: The best bet to solve Europe’s talent shortage.’ It notes that whilst the number of women working within tech companies is increasing, there’s work to be done to get more women into roles such as developer and data engineer. Women occupy only 22% of all tech roles across European companies.
And while there are no silver bullets, the report recommends four actions that the industry could take that would tackle this inequality: redressing bias in the workforce, improving retention rates, reskilling women into tech roles and bolstering girls in STEM classes.
STEM subjects have become more popular with girls at school, yet it doesn’t always follow that they end up entering the industry. I believe part of the problem is that girls and young women can’t see a vision of the future that they fit into. We have to do more to highlight the career opportunities available to women. That’s why here at Ericsson I’m keen we actively hire into engineering roles.
Diverse representation matters
As a leader I’m focused on creating diverse teams in order that tech companies accurately reflect the diversity of society. I want everyone to view engineering and tech as a career path, regardless of who you are or where you’re from, and especially if you’re from an under-represented group. And then it’s vital we cultivate organisational cultures that are inclusive, to retain the talent we’ve been keen to hire. Because if people don’t feel welcome and respected, they will rightly leave.
67% of my own team is female, but we need to do more across our own organisation and the industry at large. I know that leadership plays a big role in shifting the status quo - we start from a point of disadvantage when there are no women on our boards or executive teams. It’s one of the reasons why I’m delighted my colleague Jenny Lindqvist was recently appointed Ericsson senior vice president, head of market area Europe & Latin America. Not only is Jenny such a brilliant leader, she’s an inspiring role model who’s showing women starting out at Ericsson just how far you can go.
I think it’s important that we spotlight these women - whether leaders in the industry or emerging talent - to help others imagine a future where there are more women in tech. I look to inspiring leaders like Susan Wojcicki, who has just stepped down after nine years of being YouTube’s CEO, and Kathryn Parsons, the British tech entrepreneur who is co-founder of Decoded, a leading company in technology education. Such brilliant women are important for showing young women the career paths available.
Hope for the future
Addressing the shortfall in representation is about much more than doing the right thing. Diversity isn’t just a ‘nice to have’ or a box tick. As my colleague Susana Fernández explained at our Women in Technology panel in Madrid, greater diversity in engineering roles leads to better ideas and innovation. Susana has been part of the Ericsson family for over 25 years and in 2021 she received the company’s Inventor of the Year award.
I was so heartened by our Women in Technology event. It was fabulous soaking up the energy of the group. Hearing all the ideas from people like Susana and Somaya was such a positive experience. There was a real buzz in the room. I left with a great sense of hope that we can create the change we crave, getting more women into the tech industry and promoting greater numbers into senior roles.
I echo the call for our male colleagues to be part of the conversation too. No change will come without a collective effort.
I’m heartened that the signs of a turning tide are there. Remember Somaya’s question - “Close your eyes and imagine an engineer. What do you see?” When she asked this of her husband, daughter and friends - they all said they thought of her!
techUK is marching forward to close the tech gender gap in 2023. Throughout March, coinciding with International Women’s Day (IWD 2023) on 8 March, we are exploring how we embrace equitable workplaces. The UN’s theme for IWD 2023 focuses on Digital for All or DigitALL, and we are proud to support this.
For more information, please visit our Women in Tech hub.
Skills, Talent and Diversity updates
Sign-up to get the latest updates and opportunities from our Skills, Talent and Diversity programme.