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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?
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 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
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:
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.
Women at Microsoft sponsored 10 women to attend the WiRL Leadership Summit for those seeking professional development. Read more.
Women at Microsoft partnered with SitWithMe.org 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.
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
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