Flexible work schemes, STEM subjects from an early age and enterprise support essential to bring more women into the industry.
Women need to be brought into the tech world earlier than they currently are, and before they have to chose between tech and something else, according to Jacqueline de Rojas, GM Northern Europe at Citrix.
Kicking off an Interop London panel session, which included particpants from Citrix, Accenture, Croydon Tech City, TransferWise, Tech London Advocates and Innovate Finance, the audience in the Tech Arena was told that tech language needs changing to become more inclusive.
De Rojas said: "We need to be broader with what we recognise as tech. We will probably get more females into apprentices and other roles in the industry when we change our language."
Arabel Bailey, MD at Accenture UKI, Digital Lead said: "The thing that damages the proportion of women in tech is when we recruit people for higher levels, we cannot find the talent at that level."
The MD added that Accenture "has done a lot inside the organisation to answer that need" in a quest to bring more women into the company and that the subject reinforces the "importance of diversity agenda".
Sarah Luxford, co-founder of Croydon Tech City told Interop there needs to be role models out there "to pave the way".
"Diversity is not a project, it is about people’s attitudes," she said. "It’s an education issue and we need to see visible leaders where people can recognise themselves in order to do better."
Wendi Li, Product Manager, Viral Growth at TransferWise added: "Everybody knows Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, but where are the women?"
Following on from this, Russ Shaw, Founder of Tech London Advocates and the only man on the panel, said that the lack of women in the sector is "shocking".
He said: "We need more women. It is not just a business issue, it is a human issue."
Claire Cockerton, Brand Ambassador for Innovate Finance revealed that she experienced workplace sexism and advised women that "if your organisation does not do it for you, you have to do it yourself and stand out in the fintech industry".
She added: "Women are just as passionate about numbers as men are. Fail and success does not matter and we need to embrace start-ups.
"We need to encourage women to chase positions of authority in business, at every level."
The ambassador told the audience this is a cultural issue and that "other countries are performing better than us". To change this, policy and other decision makers need to "set some aspirational goals to us as a sector".
She said: "There is not a lack of talent out there, is just a matter of shinning a light."
Employers hold the key in getting more women into tech
Organisations are in need of changing their approaches to female workers and understand the circumstances of the moment. "We invest a lot of resources into getting women in, but then family starts… Flexible working is absolutely necessary," according to De Rojas who also said "childcare is way too expensive".
Placing some responsibility on enterprises, De Rojas told employers that they "need to be more flexible in terms of how they look at women." And it is this lack of flexibility that is leading women to walk out from the industry.
Following on from De Rojas, Li mentioned a New York Times survey that found women to be dropping off because of frustration in the workplace. "You [employers] need to keep them engaged longer to prevent that and provide movements inside the company," she said.
People need to be encouraged to look and understand the importance of gender equality in the workplace, according to Luxford, who believes "sometimes we can be our own worst enemies".
Encouraging the working force is half way to get more female workers ranking higher in a company’s boards.
Luxford brought to the discussion work that Croydon Tech City has been doing with eBay, where the company asked GMs to ask all their managers to go to the women in their team and tell them to apply for a further senior role in their team.
"It does not matter if they get it or not, it is about having someone believing in you. And now they have more women in than men," Luxford said. "Companies should encourage women to apply for senior positions."
Succeeding from this, the panel took on women looking to start a business in tech. De Rojas advised them to connect with people that have made mistakes, so "you don’t have to reinvent the wheel".
When women are entering this route of initiating their own business, they should also outsource for a good mentor and role models, "both men and women", according to Shaw.
He said: "A women starting a business needs this. It is tuff to start a business; the angels and the capitalists are men and sometimes they do not understand why women are trying to set a business.
"They need sanity people around them to help understand the benefits of investment."
Coding in the GCSEs is good, but not enough
Taking on the UK’s education system, De Rojas said teachers told her they cannot keep pace with technology and that "maybe we need to deploy people into schools to help teachers stay in pace with tech".
Talking to a school director, she found that it would be good if kids-tech orientated could go to tech companies.
She said: "Instead of talking about products in a very complicated language, we could talk about ‘what are the benefits from this’."
Cockerton said the introduction of computer science in GCSEs "is a good start" but Shaw said he is "really worried about what we are throwing at our teachers". He said: "Coding is in the curriculum is great, but are we supporting them enough?"
The Interop panellists see the UK governmental tech implementations to the school curriculum as a good sign of a change, although Shaw added that he hopes "we are not here in five or ten years having the same discussing, that would be a mistake. We need more women in tech."
He said: "If people are against that, my view is then have it. I hope the next generation embraces this more."