Proportion of women in tech roles ‘flatlining’

Although women now occupy a million STEM roles, the percentage of women in tech has barely risen since 2009

Three women at work

The number of women in STEM jobs has risen by 350,000 to one million in the last ten years, but this represents a modest rise as an overall proportion in roles that range from engineering to IT.

Women comprise 24% of the core STEM workforce in 2019, but occupy just 16% of all UK tech roles - a figure that has remained constant since 2009, according to the WISE campaign for promoting women in STEM.

Based on an extrapolation of data obtained from the government's annual population survey, the proportion of women in core STEM is expected to reach just 29% by 2030. This, according to WISE, is one percentage point shy of the 'critical mass' at which women can begin to effect real change in traditionally male-dominated sectors.

Despite celebrating a million women now in STEM roles, WISE also learned the figure has dropped as a proportion between 2018 and 2019. This is reflected across different role types as either a fall in participation or stagnation, with only management roles seeing a healthy rise in the proportion of female occupancy since 2018.

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"Overall, the drop in the past year in the percentage of core-STEM roles filled by women is a concern, and the pace of change will need to increase in the coming years to get the trend moving in a positive direction again," analysis by WISE found.

"There is a particular need to get women into tech roles and keep them there -- the data shows that women are missing out in the growth of a workforce which currently includes over one million people."

There are 180,600 female IT professionals currently in work compared with 181,500 in 2018, which represents a slight decrease after several years of sustained growth. The drop in the percentage of female IT staff can also be explained by a sharp rise in the number of men in tech roles between 2018 and 2019 of 60,000. 

Moreover, of the 300,000 more people working in tech jobs in the last decade, just 55,000 are occupied by women. The proportion of women in tech in the UK has been stuck at 16%, therefore, with WISE suggesting more work needs to be done to promote workplace diversity.

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The figures are alarming at a time when more sound is being made about women in tech than ever before. There are not only more independent organisations putting more effort into promoting women in tech roles, but individual firms have claimed to be putting more onus on raising the level of female participation.

The Tech Talent Charter, for example, has produced a set of analyses outlining how well different companies across different sectors and sizes are doing on this front. Its latest report found that micro-organisations were the most successful in achieving a 50:50 gender balance, and found that large organisations had much to learn from their approach.

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WISE analysis chimes with research published earlier this year that found almost half of women feel workplace diversity is not a priority for their company

One of the biggest barriers to more women in tech, a different piece of research gleaned, was male attitudes having a negative effect. Almost double the amount of women versus men, for example, answered that they didn't feel respected at work.

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