April 28th is the UN’s International Girls in ICT day. The initiative is aimed at raising awareness, and empowering and encouraging girls and young women to consider studies and careers in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).

In Europe, women represent only 30% of the workforce in the ICT sector, constitute only 19% of digital entrepreneurs (in other sectors they make up more than 30%), and only 19.2% of ICT-sector companies have female bosses (compared to 45.2% of non-ICT companies).

Yet there are predicted to be 900’000 unfilled ICT positions across Europe by 2020, while gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to financially outperform their less-diverse competitors. Not to mention the benefits to individual women, who can find fulfilling and exciting careers at the forefront of innovation and entrepreneurship. So, how can more women be encouraged to work in the tech sector?

On 3 May 2016, Debating Europe will be attending an event in Brussels about women in the technology sector, held by Google (you can register here). We will be asking your questions to participants and speakers, seeing what they think are the best ways to encourage greater diversity in the digital sector.

Want to learn more about female entrepreneurs and women in the tech sector? Check out our infographic below (click for a bigger version):


We had a comment sent in from Jack, who argued that girls tend to outperform boys in STEM subjects at school, but that tech careers are still dominated by men. Research does indeed suggest that boys underachieve at STEM subjects in education, whereas girls show much more potential. What happens between the education system and the labour market to discourage young women?

To get a reaction, we spoke to Yvonne Agyei, Vice President of People Operations at Google. As a prominent woman in the tech sector, how would she respond to Jack?

Next up, we had a comment from Frauke, who supported everyone having the freedom to choose whatever career they wanted. but was worried that this talk of “encouraging women to work in the tech sector” would lead to quotas in the workplace.

How would Yvonne Agyei respond?

For another perspective, we spoke to Melissa Rancourt, founder of Greenlight for Girls, an international organisation dedicated to inspire girls of all ages and backgrounds to pursue STEM subjects. What would she say in response to Jack’s comment about teenage girls outperforming boys at STEM subjects, but then not entering STEM careers?

Finally, we had a comment from Proactive, asking what are the benefits? Women who work in the ICT sector earn on average almost 9% more than women in other parts of the economy, so there are certainly benefits for individuals. But are there broader economic benefits for everybody? How would Melissa Rancourt reply?

Why aren’t there more women in the tech sector? Are there economic benefits for getting more women into STEM careers? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Charis Tsevis

36 comments Post a commentcomment

  1. avatar
    John Vincent

    Er. How can the sector make best use of talent. The headline needs to make it clear the tech sector needs to change.

    • avatar

      Of course. Pick the jobs they want – however when you are from a very young age fostered by society

    • avatar

      Sure, everyone should pick the job they want. The problem is that when you from a very young age is fostered by society that being interested in tech is “for the boys” and that girls should have other interests, you don’t even know what you want – because you never got to try it. And even if your close family encourages you it is REALLY hard to go your own way. Even if you are born in the western world, even if you are born in one of the most equal countries in the world.
      I am still told, on a REGULAR basis, that women don’t like tech, despite having spent my entire career in tech. I have been standing at a tech event and had it explained to me, especially by German men, that women don’t like tech. When I stare at them and ask “what do you mean” followed up by “why do you think I am here” they look embarrassed – but keep on insisting women don’t like technique.

      Not to mention how many companies I have heard coming up with that argument when they are hiring: We’ll pick the man because women don’t like tech. And why on EARTH would the woman apply for the job in the first place if she didn’t have an interest in/passion for technology.
      Unlike you I DEFINITELY think we need both encouragement and quotas. Although I can understand if it is threatening, it would mean more competition.

  2. avatar
    André Alves Figueiredo

    Why in the world should one do that? Can’t women pick their line of work freely? A lot of confusion between equality and homogeneity there days. Two different things people!

  3. avatar
    catherine benning

    First of all, why should they be encouraged to work in this sector as there are millions of unemployed men in Europe more suitable for this kind of employment?

    Second, why would they want to?

    And last, why is Europe and the West obsessed with female gender and their natural choices? Are you afraid the bizarre experiment is going to be shown to be the farce it is and that forcing women into an unnatural comfort zone is peculiar and Frankensteinish?

    • avatar

      I take it you are an internet troll? Most likely a man behind the keyboard. If the “millions” of unemployed men would be more suitable they wouldn’t have been unemployed.

  4. avatar
    EU reform- proactive

    It seems my original comment was judged inadmissible!
    My points are:

    * If such issue is carried by the DE- it obviously is “EU supranational supported” and presented as an EU policy- present or future- or? Not just as an opinion or advice by a NGO or the private sector..

    * Education is not an EU competence yet, but still a national one- but overlaps with the economy.

    * The promotion of more women to work in the whole economy generally- or in the Tech-sector particularly in countries with such low birth rates- is a demographic, survival & governing issue! It cannot be left for the private sector to decide or advice and promote their “narrow” aims & objectives of profit & growth.

    *This is a Government responsibility –not a private sector one. Gov need to design policies & give incentives to balance the urgent need to up birth rates in aging Europe- not to import any human material recklessly & demote family values here.

    * Any motivation in lawmaking should follow & be based- at least- on the applicable 30 basic Human rights. To quote just one is Article 16: MARRIAGE & FAMILY: Every grown-up has the right to marry and have a family if they want to. Men and women have the same rights when they are married, and when they are separated.

    * To bring in “private consultants” instead of politicians- like Yvonne Agyei or highly educated & motivated Melissa Rancourt is therefore misleading.

  5. avatar
    Bódis Kata

    But there are.
    It depends on the country and culture.

    • avatar
      Ian Duude

      Why? Why should we enforce prejudice in the workplace?

  6. avatar
    Rosie Wood

    Can think of so many reasons…mostly because we wouldn’t get equal pay

    • avatar
      Michael Fox

      What makes you think that? If women were paid less than men wouldn’t it be cheaper for companies to hire lots of women?

    • avatar
      Jesse-James Peters

      More like women aren’t going into tech industries despite some countries having programs to get women into them.

    • avatar
      Rosie Wood

      Oh cry cry cry maybe because it’s more male dominated then

  7. avatar
    Joan Joburns

    Maybe they are looking after children, and parents, also grandparents. Maybe should have put – it other way around, nothing is black and white.

  8. avatar
    Arron Karl Hughes

    Maybe because they dont want to?

  9. avatar
    Cavan Fletcher

    Both my girls took A level I.T.
    It was very popular at their school.

  10. avatar
    Lisbeth Johansson

    They are not alowed to talk!

    • avatar
      catherine benning

      @ Cavan Fletcher:

      Give it ten years once they have had time to feel their identity as female, with all its itinerant off shoots and come back here to tell us how they love it.

      The most important issue here is the ‘majority’ of girls and women. And a career in such a profession or industry is not the mainstay of the female psyche. Even though we all know you want to pretend that females are secretly masculine and just waiting to shed the horror of being born for womanhood.

      The insult to females and women by this aggressive rejection of their natural instincts, by shunning girls who are and feel feminine, is abuse and should be prohibited. The perpetrators charged with crimes against humanity.

  11. avatar

    You are asking the women, right?

  12. avatar

    To encourage more women to get in the tech sector it would firstly be necessary to promote it better. From a young age it is essential to reach girls and boys for all industry and not perpetuate the idea that certain industries are for men, and others for women.
    Further on, even though in an ideal world quotas should not be necessary, it is a way to force tech companies to hire more women and perhaps change mentalities.
    Finally the idea of more tech orientated classes for all could contribute to it.

  13. avatar
    Virginia Perez

    Hmm … an expensive education for a job market that will soon be flooded, so low wages with heavy student loans. Won’t balance out, like everything else. You know, that’s if Bernie and a progressive congress isn’t elected.

  14. avatar
    Eleanore Whitaker

    If Bernie is elected, women will be relegated to the back of the room. Who’s kidding whom here? Women aren’t in the tech fields for one reason: They are outnumbered by men and employers in tech industries hire men more than women because of that stupid idea that women cannot handle math and science as well as a man. I saw this happen once when a female MSME applied for a job at our company and the “men” said she couldn’t be hired because, “you can’t have a woman with a skirt and heels climbing a 80 foot high platform.” I kid you not.

  15. avatar

    The only way to force women to choose a technical, relevant subject is to make their life miserable if they don’t do it.
    In fact countries with the worsed lifing conditions for women show the highest precentage of women in MINT. While as better and more freedom women have as more they choose classic femal low paid subjects and jobs.

  16. avatar

    “How can more women be encouraged to work in the tech sector?”

    Rewire their brains?

    I’m sick and tired of this nonsense.

    It’s all there in abundance: opportunity, incentive and favoritism, to the point where it’s actually more accurate to call it a blatentgender privilege. The “discrimination” card has been played over and over and over again – it’s dead and buried. There is no discrimination.

    Even the most unfair and unjust preference women have been given legally, socially and financially over the past decades have not changed a thing.

    Isn’t it time to ask a simple question in return?

    “How can more women be encouraged to work in the tech sector?”

    “Why should more women be encouraged to work in the tech sector, if it’s been proven over and over again that it’s not their preference?”

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