Why women are underrepresented in management positions and why Bulgaria and Romania can serve as role models. […]
“First of all, it should be carefully examined where inequality exists in order to effectively combat it. According to Eurostat, of the approximately 73 million employees in scientific and technical professions in the EU in 2020, almost 37.5 million are women – that’s 51.3% – compared to 35.5 million or 48.7% of men. However, if you focus on IT-specific jobs or management positions, there are still significant gender differences.
The latest report from McKinsey finds that the underrepresentation of women in management positions is extremely harmful for society and equally bad for companies. This unequal distribution is due to a number of causes that should be urgently addressed. Among the causes are unconscious bias and the tendency for women to be hired only on the basis of their past achievements, while men are more often hired and promoted on the basis of their future potential. Moreover, behind the slow progress towards fairer representation, there is an increasing polarization between the companies that are making good progress and those that are lagging behind.
The study published in the PsychologicalScience Journal in February 2018, which shows that Germany and the Netherlands have the lowest proportion of women in technical professions in the EU, shows that these otherwise highly developed economies also have the largest gender pay gap. This makes it clear that the problem is very deep-rooted, and shows that these inequalities should be addressed on a broad scale, rather than focusing on specific niches. More needs to be done to ensure that a high proportion of women studying STEM subjects also leads to a similar proportion of women working in the technology sector.
In the USA, for example, less than four out of ten computer science graduates work in this field, compared to more than half of male computer science graduates. The problem continues automatically, since male-dominated work environments at least favor an unconscious bias towards female applicants. At worst, such work environments can be openly hostile to female employees.
As already mentioned at the beginning, this strongly depends on what is defined as a technical activity. If you define technology in a very general way and summarize the areas of production and service, there is no underrepresentation. There is an underrepresentation of women in senior positions – regardless of technology or business fields – and this is very much related to the general inequalities that we have discussed. If we look at IT in particular, women are underrepresented in the less application-oriented areas of IT with few interdisciplinary touchpoints such as development and programming.
On the other hand, as a CHE study in 2018 showed using the example of Germany, where there is a reference to a practical discipline, such as in medical informatics or bioinformatics, the proportion of female students is quite high. There is therefore sufficient evidence that women lack neither the skills nor the willingness to engage in technical professions. Breaking traditional gender roles, removing conscious and unconscious biases, and allowing women and men to share childcare without falling behind when they return to work would be a good start to achieving greater equality for women – in the technology industry and elsewhere.
According to the EU Digital City Index, we should take an example of what the future could look like at the emerging technology centers of Eastern Europe. Bulgaria, Romania, Lithuania and Latvia have the highest percentage of female employees in the technology industry in Europe, with Latvia having the smallest gender pay gap in the technology industry in all of Europe. The countries that are doing well in the technology sector are also the ones that are making the most progress towards equality in their economy and society as a whole.
Diversity, in turn, is an essential factor for any company that wants to develop products that better serve modern society. The latest report from McKinsey examined data from 1000 large companies in 15 countries and showed a correlation between the increase in diversity – especially at the management level – and business growth. The report showed that “companies in the top quartile of gender diversity in management teams are 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile”. In short, what is good for diversity is good for business.“