Celebrating Women’s Day: Uplifting women in tech
With Women’s Day finally here, we keep the conversation going and choose to challenge the men from Avy about their views on women in the tech industry, questioning them whether they’ve experienced gender inequality and what they think women bring to the workplace.
International Women’s Day is here! After a month of conversing and discussing with the wonder women of Avy who shared their experiences on a variety of topics, we decided to keep the conversation going and asked the male counterparts of Avy about their views on women in the tech industry.
According to statistics from Women Who Tech, 82% of men in the tech field believe that their company spends too much time focused on diversity, whereas 40% of women think that their employer doesn’t spend enough time addressing the issue. Luckily, this isn’t an issue at Avy, where the majority of men were happy to give their insights on the current position of women in tech and the ways we can improve it, as well as, discuss how having a more diverse team can contribute to the company.
We talked to our Avy men across all teams; tech, production, commercial, flight operations and management. Read on to find out more about their perspective on the current hot topic.
Why do you think there are fewer women in tech than in other industries?
As it’s been mentioned in previous interviews, women make up only 25% of computer science-related jobs. We touched upon reasons why this could be in interviews with the ladies from Avy, but we were curious to find out why men think this is the case.
Attila, drone technician: I think it’s a very complex question as it can vary geographically. For example, in Silicon Valley in the US there’s a different percentage of women in tech compared to post-Soviet or former war zone areas. Most of the innovations had their starting grid in the US, where the tech boom created faster new jobs for women in this field. On the other hand, I think the issue in Europe, especially the eastern part, was the preconception that strived from parenting that tech isn’t for young girls, in many areas there was no internet connection, and there was rarely a discussion about tech as a part of female education. However, I believe that access to the internet and job fairs, as well as tech companies' hiring campaigns, helped the percentage of women in tech to grow.
Jaime, aerospace engineer: That's a really good question that I haven’t found a definite answer to. During both my Bachelor’s and Master’s studies in Aerospace engineering there were about 90% of men in the class. Hence, it seems women are less likely to pursue a tech career early on by not enrolling in tech-related studies. Therefore, I guess that the issue starts in earlier stages of education, probably in primary or high school. Another reason could be that the current lack of women in the industry in itself, discourages women from applying for studies in the tech field. On a positive note, it seems like the percentage of women in Aerospace is slowly increasing. In Delft where I did my Master’s, the percentage of female students has been consistently growing over the last few years. This is a good sign, a larger percentage of women entering the field could encourage more to do the same. Even though this won’t solve the issue completely, it still gives a glimpse of hope for the future.
Ruben, technical office manager: I think what plays a significant role here is the fact that the tech industry is so male-dominated, it will most likely be men who are doing the hiring process. And I think people are usually more likely to hire someone more alike to them than someone who is not. So according to this theory, as long as men are in charge of the hiring process women are less likely to be hired. Another factor that could play a role is being a minority in tech studies. If you are one of the very few women in the room, it can feel more lonely and less motivating and it’s more likely you will give up on the tech studies, as a female friend once shared with me was the situation during her studies.
Erik, chief engineer: I think tech has historically been a male-dominated industry, which has made it harder for women to integrate into tech company cultures.
You kind of had to be 'one of the guys' to fit into a team and to be taken seriously. Fortunately, that has changed throughout the years, however, I think that women still face a lot higher entry barriers to become part of the tech industry.
How can we attract more women to work in the tech industry?
Gender pay gap, the confidence gap, the employment gap, are some of the many gaps that discourage women from entering the tech industry, so how do we encourage and attract them then? Here’s what some of our colleagues had to say.
Ben, CTO: Three things come to my mind. First, it could be that the image of the tech industry itself is not the most welcoming. If the image is that this is a male-dominated sector with geeks behind their computers, it could be less attractive for women to pursue their careers in the field. It would be better to portray tech workplaces as places that bring adventure, career opportunities, and social interaction. Second, I believe it’s important to find the right role models and let their stories be heard which could in return make it relatable to the ambitions of young girls. And lastly, it’s important to tackle the issue of the ‘imposter syndrome’. I'm under the impression that women, more often than men, can have the idea that they do not belong in a certain role, thinking they might not be good at it, and that somebody else might be a better fit to do the job. Although I think it’s nonsense, I understand it’s a complex issue to solve.
Kester, software engineer: Few factors could help with attracting women into the tech field. The first would be to put more effort into the recruitment process - being open in the job description that the company is striving for inclusivity and diversity which is not always obvious in job descriptions. Another factor would be educating employees and especially management on the importance of inclusivity through various workshops and then advertising it to the outside world. Furthermore, organising social and team-building activities could help both genders appreciate and respect each other more. And last, but not least, putting leadership programs and training in motion in order to encourage women to take up leadership positions if they want to.
Matthijs, embedded systems engineer: That is a very difficult question to answer. In the short term, this is really hard because of the following two reasons. There is an extreme mismatch in the number of women in tech compared to the number of men in tech. Hence if one is looking for a "qualified" employee, the chances are much higher a man will come out on top of the lists. Changing this in the short term might require positive discrimination towards female candidates, which could be a solution but definitely not an ideal one. Second, the image and appeal of the tech industry tend to be very focused on men, which makes it really difficult and unattractive for women to enter this industry. Women are not encouraged to enter any STEM fields when they are young. If they enter one of these fields, they encounter a field dominated by men, tailored towards the needs of men but not so much towards the needs of women.
This means a fundamental, long-term solution is required. In my opinion, this should mainly focus on supporting and encouraging girls to dive into the STEM fields, and working hard on the image and branding of these fields to better include women. For example, if you look at any stock photo of an "engineer" it will most likely be a man and that needs to change.
Have you ever witnessed gender inequality at the workplace and how did you tackle it?
According to Pew Research Centre, women are 42% more likely to face sexism at work, 23% of women are more likely to be considered incompetent due to their gender and 25% of women have made 25% less than men for the same job. However, we were keen to find out if men notice these kinds of inequalities.
Alberto, aerospace engineer: Fortunately or maybe naive of me, I haven't seen it in my work experience. However, knowing it's there, it concerns me whether I don’t see it or is it hidden from me. Yes, the percentage of female engineers has been very low compared to male engineers but in my personal experience, their knowledge and opinions have always been valued. As an example: in my previous job, I worked in a team of 8 designers where the two Lead Engineers were women. Their work and input made the team work in a much more efficient way and they were also the safety net for the rest of the designers. They both did an amazing job and were highly valued in the team for it and I would regularly go to them for advice or help.
Luke, drone pilot: I have certainly seen gender inequality in workplaces all around the world. Perhaps it was less obvious to me in my youth, as I just didn't have an awareness of it then, but the sheer lack of women in aviation when I was training as a pilot in the UK and Spain was actually shocking. It wasn't until I moved to Canada and saw women flying that I realised how under-represented they were. To reply shortly, I made sure to give the female pilots the same opportunities as their male counterparts, and informed them of opportunities within the company I worked for, as well as, showed support to them in the face of a sexist employer.
Renco, drone technician: Yes, I've definitely experienced and witnessed gender inequality at the workplace. In those situations, I've been trying to step up in the conversation when I would notice sexism on display, by defending the power of my female counterparts. Embracing and occasionally showing my own feminine side helps too as I think it breaks the macho culture issue. Part of that is about stripping down the 'cultural' prejudice that women are too emotional, not technical, not logical thinkers, or not strong enough to do the job. I've learned a lot by working in diverse teams, always searching for ways to get everyone at their best, make them feel seen and therefore give them a chance to grow. An open mindset, empathy and the will to be surprised by anyone help strip-down (gender) inequality.
How do you support women in your workplace?
When employed at a majority-female company, women are more likely to report that they are treated equally and fairly (79%), however at majority-men company only 48% women report the same, so the question is how can men support women in the workplace better.
Thomas, CFO: For me, both in life and work, women and men are equal in all aspects and should be treated the same way. Some words that pop-up: respect, equality, openness, facilitate, listening, empowering, development, championing success, flexibility.
Frank, drone pilot: I support women by treating them like the excelling colleagues they are!
Janusz, product engineer: I support women at work and in life by treating them equally, with the same respect as every person deserves, regardless the sex, religion, or any other life views.
Respect and support should be equal for every person, no matter which gender they are or beliefs they have.
What do you think women add to the workplace?
The University of Amsterdam found that teams with an equal representation of gender had improved “mutual monitoring,” where employees hold each other accountable, resulting in greater quality of work. According to McKinsey, companies that have more gender diversity are 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability. Hence, we were on a quest to find out what exactly do women add to the workplace according to men.
George, systems & control engineer: I find that when workplaces have skewed gender demographics, the resulting dynamics don't represent the real world and this can lead to antisocial behaviours. This is typically observed in engineering-oriented teams. Even when all individuals have the best intentions, in an all-men team often military-like behaviours creep up, such as high competition and monocultures. Having a team with a representative percentage of women forces all individuals to feel and act as they would in the real, out-there society and not as in a cult.
Remco, business developer: I believe women are able to perfectly balance kindness and professionalism, which results in a very joyful and productive environment. An added bonus is that when women are present at the workplace men behave less like little boys.
Paul, head of design: I believe that any team performs better when there is diversity in backgrounds, perspectives, and opinions.
Unfortunately, women are still under-represented in tech. And that is a pity because all the women I’ve worked with work hard, conscientiously and with a great sense of responsibility.
It is often said that women look out for everyone’s well-being more than men; in my experience, the same goes for making sure that goals are achieved. And what I personally enjoy very much in working with women, is that they work in a more collaborative way than men. I’ve seen this raising the level of my work and my team’s work to higher levels on many projects in the past.
Pi, founder & CEO: First of all, I believe that a more diverse team leads to a higher rate of success. I think it is important to emphasise that I am a great ambassador for equality of opportunity and that we as Avy have a high responsibility in making the overall male-dominated field of aviation being as accessible to women as it is to men. To give an answer to the question "what do women add", would almost certainly lead to generalisation, something I am not so fond of. Let us, therefore, talk about 'feminine energy'. That would be something that is not necessarily unique to women, and it can be carried out by anyone throughout the whole gender spectrum but is on average seen more often in women, without going into detail whether this is something that comes from nature or nurture. For me, this highly important, 'feminine vibe and perspective' is about features like high empathy, a greater eye for details, and a strong feeling of responsibility. Furthermore, it also encompasses better and more balanced decision-making and risk assessing, as well as, contributing to better collaboration and team environment. The women within Avy make us more diverse, stronger and more successful. So here's a shoutout to all of them. Because they not only make us more likely to succeed but also open doors for all the other women by changing the world of aviation from the inside by being role models.
To wrap it up
We would like to thank all Avy’s employees who shared their insights and experiences when it comes to the position of women in the tech industry throughout this whole series. Hopefully, by starting this conversation we can encourage others to do the same. The first step should be to raise awareness of the issues women face in this field, followed by pondering on solutions that could help companies improve when it comes to achieving gender equality and finally integrating those findings. Yes, we might not always get it right but as long as we keep an open mind and are eager to learn, there is a bright and promising future ahead.