Will more investments in diversity make a difference to the tech industry?

Intel has invested $125 million into its diversity fund with plans to encourage more women into the IT sector, plus other tech giants like Apple and Microsoft have new initiatives too. Jade Burke asks: Will they make a difference?

Gender equality and staff diversity is still a talking point for many companies in the industry, and it seems to be an issue that isn’t budging.

With men holding on to the top spot, working in the majority of management positions today, big tech companies are starting to recognise this as a problem and have started to roll out their own initiatives to entice more women into tech.

Prime Minister David Cameron has even called for firms to reveal whether they are paying men more than women, threatening to name and shame the firms that are.

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) says that 27 per cent of digital workers in the UK are female, but thanks to the likes of Intel, Apple, Microsoft, Dell and CompTIA, this percentage could increase.

Chip maker Intel has pumped approximately $125 million into its Intel Capital Diversity Fund, with an intent to fully represent women and underrepresented minorities in its US workforce by 2020.

“We are proud to take a leading role toward broader participation in technology entrepreneurship and employment,” says Lisa M. Lambert, MD and VP of Intel Capital.

Anna Cheng, UK enterprise and technical PR manager for Intel, adds: “We will focus on ways to increase the number of qualified candidates in the pipeline for hiring, improve opportunities across the board for girls and women, and prevent the harassment and bullying that has characterised some of the recent gaming controversy.”

Apple boss Tim Cook also revealed plans to create a more diverse workforce in the future, while Microsoft has launched its own Women in Tech initiative in India last year, with the hope to get more women in tech. Also, Dell has its own Women’s Entrepreneur Network, which aims to connect women with networks, sources of capital, knowledge and technology.

Meanwhile, CompTIA is planning on expanding its own Dream IT initiative, bringing its series of school visits and talks from the US to the UK this October.

But can initiatives like these, really make a difference? Gemma Telford, MD at the IT Marketing Agency, says: “I think it’s great to see Intel’s Capital initiative to extend diversity in the workplace. As we know, the technology sector is still very much male-dominated and there are a number of initiatives now that are starting to address this.”

On the other hand, will throwing money into schemes actually bring more women into the IT field, or will it deter them from pursuing a career in tech?

Sarah Shields, sales executive director and general manager for Dell UK, and PCR Woman of the Year 2014, comments: “It’s more than just putting the money into the programmes, it’s a mind-set – not change but acceptance.

“Diversity is about thought, and by having a diverse leadership team and a diverse employee base you get that wider scope of thought.”

In comparison, some companies haven’t noticed a gender divide within their workforce, as VIP Computer’s director Rich Marsden concurs: “We don’t have a male-dominated office, I wouldn’t say we’re “even Stevens” but 40 per cent of our workforce is female.”

Telford makes the point that it’s not just the big firms which need to think about diversity. She continues: “It’s great that the multinationals are launching initiatives to drive diversity as they have real power. But the massive majority of businesses are small, so my question is what can we all be doing to ensure diversity in our businesses?”

Perhaps now that larger companies have taken note and begun to lead the way with these initiatives, the future may eventually lead to a more diverse industry, as Cheng says: “We believe that women and under-represented minorities should play a central role in the development of technology.

PCR is hosing its own Women of the Year event on October 16th, celebrating leading women in the tech industry. You can purchase tickets here

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