The story of Ada Lovelace, the 19th Century mathematician often credited as the first computer programmer, and the woman after whom the Pentagon programming language is named, has set us thinking about why some elements of the web world are still seen as a patriarchy.
While there are plenty of female designers and project managers across the digital media industry as a whole, there is a much bigger proportion of men to women when it comes to roles such as app developers, technical architects and test analysts.
In our ten years of matching creative industry employers with people looking for permanent, freelance and temporary jobs in digital, we generally see a split of around 70/30 male to female.
It’s very visible at digital events and conferences as well as in the workplace – men far outnumber women, not just in the audience but often on the speakers’ podium too.
With digital spearheading the marketing race and offering some great career opportunities, we need to see more women coming out of education and into the industry. The government’s efforts to encourage more young people, especially girls, to study STEM subjects is a move in the right direction.
We would never argue the case for positive discrimination, recruitment should always be about who has the best skills, experience and aptitude for the job, not which set of toilets they head for.
But we do believe a balanced workforce is good for business. Women bring a different perspective to the design and development of web content that appeals to both male and female target audiences.
A study by the University of Glamorgan revealed big differences in the web-based language, visuals and orientation that each sex was most drawn to. Which means that an all-male (or female) digital team could, by instinctively designing in a style that appeals mainly to their own gender, hit a business where it hurts – in the pocket.
People who buy into left brain/right brain theories believe that left brains are logical and analytical, making them ideal for coding and back end roles, while right brains are intuitive, creative and good at the more visual, front end elements of web design.
Although we understand the logic (see what we did with our left brains there?) this theory is way too simplistic to be the only cause of the male to female bias. Our job would be so much easier if men and women really did divide neatly into left and right brains, but we are working with individuals with their own strengths and abilities, and we’re in the business of matching the right person with the right job, not squashing round pegs into square holes.
Talent is talent no matter how your chromosomes rack up, but interestingly, employers are always quick to snap up a really good woman candidate to complement their digital team, especially those with crossover skills.
The good news is that the times they are a-changing and we are gradually seeing more women making their mark in the industry, as evidenced by the talented folk listed in The Drum’s 30 under 30, and the rise of groups such as Girl Geeks and the Digital Women’s Network.
As designers and developers carry on pushing the boundaries of digital content, so the skills platforms that are needed will expand and evolve.
And that’s why it’s important for candidates to work with specialist recruiters who can see where the industry is going, who know its players and who can help candidates make sure their skills are always up to date and in demand.
So what do you think about the issue – is it down to nature, nuture, lack of opportunity or awareness of what is possible?
We’re interested in your viewpoint. Leave a comment here or on our Facebook page, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.