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Mansplaining is rife in the tech industry and it’s holding back gender equality

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 11/02/2019 Amelia Heathman
a group of people in a room © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited

The gender imbalance in the tech industry is a well-known fact, but sometimes we can concentrate too much on the numbers and not the actual experiences of the women working in tech.

A new report commissioned by security company Kaspersky Lab, and released in time for International Women in STEM Day, demonstrates what it is really like to be a woman in tech.

During the research, interviews were conducted with 5,000 IT professionals across Europe, with participants reporting that the tech industry can seem daunting, and many have experienced ‘mansplaining’ in their work.

Mansplaining, a term that denotes when a man explains something to a woman in a patronising or condescending way, is rife in the tech industry.

According to the report, 26 per cent of female IT decision makers say they have witnessed mansplaining in their day jobs.

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As PsychologyToday notes, mansplaining is an issue because it denotes social power and who is more powerful in a scenario, but as well, it reinforces gender inequality. “When a man explains something to a woman in a patronising or condescending way, he reinforces gender stereotypes about women’s presumed lesser knowledge and intellectual ability.

This is especially true when the woman is in fact more knowledgeable on the subject,” writes Dr Elizabeth Aura McClintock.

Given the spread of this behaviour, it’s, therefore, no wonder that one in 10 female IT professionals across Europe describes a career in tech as daunting.

In terms of the UK figures, more than half of UK IT professionals (56 per cent) report working in a majority male team, compared to only 9 per cent of people that say they work in a mainly female team.

In addition, 37 per cent of female respondents said a lack of female professionals in the industry made them wary about pursuing a career in tech, and 53 per cent said they would be less likely to join an orgnaisation if they saw a gender imbalance. 

Speaking about the report, Ilijana Vavan, MD of Europe for Kaspersky Lab, said: “There is continued underrepresentation of women in IT across Europe.

While there is no overnight fix to balancing the gender divide in our industry, our research and debate help us to understand how we can attract more interest in tech and cyber security and make it more attractive and accessible to women.”

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The research wasn’t all negative – 20 per cent of women reported that a good salary is the most attractive feature of any IT job. According to ComputerWeekly, the average tech salary in UK and Ireland is over £80,000 a year, making it an attractive career path for many people. 

So what’s being done to get more women into the industry? As Vavan says, research such as this is necessary to understand the issues facing the industry, particularly when it comes to achieving a gender balance.

It also points to the importance of initiatives like the Tech Talent Charter and Tech She Can, which focuses on improving the recruitment and retention of women in tech, as well as the Inspiring Fifty UK list which showcases female role models in the industry.

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Encouraging companies to think about the way they can change hiring processes, or highlighting other women in the industry can help to make tech seem a potential career option to women.

It’s in the interest of companies too: the industry is growing at such a rate that there will be one million tech jobs in the London alone by 2023, according to research by Tech London Advocates.

As TLA’s founder Russ Shaw said: “Bringing more women into tech companies will have a dramatic impact on the scale of London’s tech employment landscape.”

Related: 30 Inspiring Women Who Changed Feminism (Harpers Bazzar)

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