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Women in technology report:
How smartphone manufacturers are combating the lack of females in technology

Penned by
Abby Francis


In the not so distant year of 2015, the tech world was graced with the first diversity figures from Google, Twitter and Facebook. And they are not great. Across these ever expanding global brands, women fill just 18% of technology based roles at Google, 16% at Facebook and 13% at Twitter.1

Despite there being a surge in media attention promoting female participation in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) based roles, women continue to be under-represented. Regardless of the fact that girl’s out-perform boys in GCSE and A-Level, and there are more women graduating from university than men, just 12% of engineering and technology undergraduates are women.2

It's unarguable that the industry is male-dominated with many women experiencing casual sexism in the workplace. This is topped off by unshakable and damaging stereotypes, which not only negate females already in tech, but create barriers, which dissuade young women from joining.

Unsurprisingly, this representation is mirrored throughout some of the world's most loved brands. We've all got a smartphone, right? Well, what does gender diversity look like within these mobile manufacturers and how are they trying to encourage females to join technology professions?


Apple is huge. Whether you're a fan or not, you can't deny that the iPhone 1st Gen changed the game. With its innovative multi-touch display, steel glass design and all in one features, including Siri , it shaped the path for rivals to follow. At the end of 2014, the company posted revenue of $42.1 billion and net quarterly profit of $8.5 billion, making it the world's most valuable brand.4

Across the globe, Apple has 98,000 employees and 670 retail stores, yet only 22% of those in technology-based roles are female. This feeds into an overall split of 69% to 31% in favour of males, mirroring the same trend as other tech companies such as Google and Facebook.5

"Apple is committed to transparency, which is why we are publishing statistics about the race and gender makeup of our company. Let me say up front: As CEO, I'm not satisfied with the numbers. They're not new to us, and we've been working hard for quite some time to improve them."

Tim Cook, Apple CEO

This certainly rings true with regards to leadership within the company. Apple has previously been criticized for its lack of diversity within the board of directors, which in turn encouraged them to seek out 'highly qualified women to include in the pool from which board nominees are chosen.' And to be fair to them, they found a couple of powerhouses. In 2013, former Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts was hired to head up Apple's retail and online sales whilst Sue Wagner, the founding partner and director of BlackRock, was elected to the board of directors, taking their leadership split up to 72% male, 28% female5, which, and I think you'll agree, is still a considerable difference. Even so, at least, we're being heard.

Angela Ahrendts is probably the name who most turns your ear thanks to her role as the former CEO of fashion elite Burberry. In 2014, Forbes ranked her as the 49th most powerful woman in the world6 and it seems that Tim Cook is recognising her influential command. According to Apple's 2015 Proxy Statement, Ahrendts earned over $70 million when she joined ranks, which far surpasses the earnings of her fellow male executives.7

Angela Ahrendts

Angela Ahrendts

Credit where credits due, in an economy where women are still vastly underpaid compared to their male counterparts, Apple are taking a public stand. Parallel to her shimmering career, Ahrendts has also managed to build up a successful family life alongside her husband and their three children. We all agree that the choice between building a family or reaching the peak of your career is a major talking point, not just in tech but in other careers also. To combat this, Apple recently launched an egg freezing scheme8 which enables women to have the best of both worlds.


On the flip side of Apple, you'll see Samsung. The two smartphone dynamos have split the majority of fans right down the middle, like a tech themed Kim Kardashian vs. Amber Rose except with much more imagination, captivation and now, thanks to the Galaxy Edge; Samsung has even got better curves. At the end of 2014, the company posted revenue of $48 billion with a net quarterly profit of $4.82 billion9, making it the 8th most valuable brand in the world.4

Based in Korea but spread across the world, Samsung has 286,284 employees with 4.8% of these coming from Europe. Out of the overall worldwide figure, merely 16% of women work in tech roles10. We're certainly beginning to see a pattern here.

However, to be fair to them, like Apple, Samsung realise the divide and seem dedicated to distinguishing it. In their most-recent sustainability report, they make it quite distinct that female growth within the business is an important goal. Recently, the percentage of women recruited from university rose to 30% whilst Samsung has also provided home office options or day-care facilities for the children of working mums, subsequently increasing the returning rate from maternity leave to a whopping 92%. 10

"In order to expand STEM education and career opportunities to women, we have to give girls exposure to STEM via an accessible, fun experience with real world learning's and we're doing just that through this partnership."

Samsung for Girls Who Code

Samsung for Girls Who Code

Samsung also teamed up with Girls Who Code, a non-profit charity dedicated to reaching gender parity in computing fields, to launch a Mobile App Challenge. The idea was to get young girls to work together to design and code a mobile application that addresses a need in their school or community.

Back in 2013, it was widely publicised that 16 female staff were promoted to the global executive committee as part as a reshuffling aimed to get more women into senior roles.11 However, despite this effort, women still only represent 3.9% of senior titles.10

Opinion from the top

Helen van Eeden

Helen van Eeden

“Although IT is a million miles from a building site, there will always be a certain amount of 'banter' that you have to take with a relaxed attitude. It's vital that women do not feel pressured to compensate for their gender; a woman might feel she needs to illustrate her commitment and value to the business with a more demanding work schedule, negatively impacting her personal life.” Read more.

Operations Manager - CRITICAL Software Technologies

Dianah Worman

Dianah Worman

“These issues don’t disappear and they never will. The key is raising awareness of diversity in the workplace, and stopping and thinking for a moment. Having children is a challenge and it will compromise your career path in some way. Flexible ways of working are pivotal, as are childcare arrangements and length of leave. Businesses need to be on their toes.” Read more.

Diversity Adviser - CIPD (the professional body for HR and people development)

Microsoft Lumia

In early 2015, Microsoft published its earnings report revealing that the company has made $5.6 billion in net income on $26.5 billion in revenue12. This reflects the company's first batch of Windows Phone smartphone releases since acquiring Nokia and removing the iconic brand name. Coming in behind Apple, Microsoft is the 2nd most valuable brand in the world.4

Mirroring the majority of smartphone manufacturers featured, Microsoft have just 16% of females working within a technology-based role; this is compared to 44.3% of women in a non-tech role13. By looking at these figures singularly, it would be easy to slate the company for this obvious gender gap; however, this doesn't at all reflect the remarkable effort they put into recruiting women.

Take a look at some of the recent campaigns they've promoted:


Microsoft - Digi Girlz Day

DigiGirlz Day

By participating in the Microsoft DigiGirlz Day, young women can find out about the variety of opportunities available in the high-tech industry and can explore future career paths. Read more.

Microsoft - Women In Real Life Sponsership

WIRL Leadership Summit

Women at Microsoft sponsored 10 women to attend the WiRL Leadership Summit for those seeking professional development. Read more.

Microsoft - Sit With Me

Sit With Me

Women at Microsoft partnered with to recognize the important role women play in creating future technology Read more.

Out of the 17.2% of women in leadership roles at Microsoft,13 Maria M. Klawe has to be the most admirable. Before joining Microsoft, Klawe served as dean of engineering and a professor of computer science at Princeton University after receiving her doctorate and Bachelor of Science degrees in mathematics. Making significant contributions in her field, her current research interests include discrete mathematics, serious games and assistive technologies.

It's fair to say that Maria is an exemplary role model for any women. Perhaps her most endearing trait is her lifelong passion to 'increase the participation of women in science and technology, serving on the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology since its inception'. Again, like most successful women in tech, Klawe has managed to balance her super career with an exciting home life alongside her husband and two children.

Maria M. Klawe

Maria M. Klawe


Sony has been a name on everyone's lips lately; whether it's about the release of the Sony Xperia Z4 or the widely publicised hacking scandal of the Entertainment division. Another talking point is the company's 2014's ¥128.36 billion net income loss despite the Mobile Communications segment increasing sales by 10.1% year on year.14

But enough of the boring bits, recent diversity reports indicate that Sony boasts a rather large (when compared to others) 34.3% female employee number in Europe, which is massive 15.7% higher than in Japan where its headquarter is based.15 However, what they don't distinguish between is whether this is strictly for tech or non-tech roles.

"In the electronics business, which accounts for a large proportion of engineers, the percentage of male employees is comparatively high, reflecting the generally low percentage of female students majoring in engineering and technology."

- Sony

Fair enough. We all know that to get women into tech, we need to encourage women to study STEM based subjects. Currently, a meagrer 17% of computer science graduates are female16 which creates a catch-22 situation for tech companies who all seem keen on promoting gender diversity but keep getting stuck at a dead end. 'To bolster the population of women in engineering and science fields, Sony cooperates in the organization of science festivals at universities and promotes a range of programs to develop the talents of women in science and engineering, including the Sony Science Program for Girls, which is aimed at school girls who are interested in science.'


Now, HTC is an exciting one. Apart from the fact that the Taiwanese company achieved a slim net profit, of $14.7 million17, thanks partly to its Android powered smartphones, it's also the only phone manufacturer to be co-founded by a woman. Introducing Cher Wang, the female who aimed to converge computing and communications into a handheld device and succeeded in creating a multi-billion dollar global company developing the most innovative smartphones on the market.

Compared to the others, HTC has a humble employee figure of 17,631 worldwide. Refreshingly, a massive 49.40% of these are women.18! However, it must be said that like Sony, it's not entirely clear whether this is wholly attributed to tech based roles. Still, for a massive electronics company, this is awesome.

Let's get back to the woman in the spotlight, Cher Wang. The daughter of one of the richest men in the world thanks to her father's plastics and petrochemicals company, Wang has followed her family's technological dynasty.

In 1987, she chaired VIA Technologies, Inc. before co-founding HTC and catapulting herself into one of the world's leaders in smartphone technology. Forbes named her as the 54th most powerful woman in the world in 2014,6 and like the other superwomen before her, she's also a wife and mother to two children. It's because of Wang's influence that HTC holds one of the highest percentages of females in managerial roles, coming in at 20.39%.18

Cher Wang

Cher Wang

LG Electronics

2014 was a tremendous year for LG, announcing an improved $475 million profit after shipping a total of 59.1 million smartphones, a 24% increase on its previous year19. With the LG G4 release pending, it's looking likely that LG are only going to get bigger.

Just beating its Korean counterpart Samsung, 23.60% of LG's 82,432 worldwide employees are female. Again, it doesn't clearly state whether these are attributed to tech roles or not, nonetheless, they do reveal that out of 5,791 female employees from Korea, 68.8% are office staff and 31.1% work at production sites, with 3.3% of female employees serving as team leaders. Unfortunately, no data is given for Europe.20

Disappointingly, LG has 23 people within top management roles yet not one of them is female21. Are they doing anything to combat this? Well, it seems like there's a lot of talk around employee development, and the plan looks pretty nifty; however, there is less focus on female progression. To be fair to them, they do state that they are dedicated to 'making on-going efforts to recruit and foster female talent', but that's where the commentary ends.


Way back when Qwerty screens were cool, and BBM ruled the world, BlackBerry was flying. However, from its latest financial year, the Canadian company has reported a net loss of $5.9bn.22 Nonetheless, due to recent releases, including the BlackBerry Classic, BlackBerry has displayed a solid quarter.

With that out of the way, let's press on with more important findings. According to its latest Corporate Responsibility report, 25% of BlackBerry's 10,107 worldwide employees are female.23 Which, and I think you'll agree, is a pretty decent figure when compared to the rest of the market. Unfortunately, as with Sony, HTC and LG, there is no indication, whether these are for tech based roles.

A theme that keeps arising throughout this article is the lack of females qualified in a STEM subject. The question seems to be: how can tech companies hire more women if there's a lack of women qualified to do the job? Well, if you're BlackBerry, you help inspire young women to take up a tech career by campaigning for change.


Announced by former Global Creative Director Alicia Keys, the BlackBerry Scholars Program is an initiative designed to inspire more women to enter the mobile computing industry and pursue careers in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). The recipients will receive full, four-year university tuition scholarships to the school of their choice for degrees in STEM-related fields, as well as mentorship and professional opportunities.

With that said, there's still massive room for improvement as females represent just 3.8% of BlackBerry's Executive Team.24


Lastly but by no means least is Motorola, since being acquired by Lenovo, who also owns two other smartphone brands - the Chinese company has shipped 10 million smartphones and pulled in $1.9 billion in revenue25 focusing on mid-range and affordable smartphones including Google backed Nexus 6 and the budget Moto X.

According to the company's latest Corporate Responsibility Report, 30% of employees worldwide are women.26 Once again though, this doesn't state whether these are for strictly tech roles, nevertheless, this is a decent figure for a massive technology organisation. What's pleasing to see is Motorola's focus on Business Councils to help 'reinforce our commitment to inclusion by raising cultural awareness, sponsoring internal events, and partnering with external organizations.' One of these are solely dedicated to women and 2, 000 employees participated in activities.

Another satisfying engagement is the leadership development programme, which has seen 17% of females taking up senior titles.24

"At Motorola Solutions, we strive to create an inclusive, open environment where employees' diversity of thought, attributes, cultures and experiences are valued and celebrated."