Why we need to fix the gender bias bug in technology

5 minute read 21 Mar 2019
By EY Global

Ernst & Young Global Ltd.

5 minute read 21 Mar 2019

Technology is expected to transform businesses for the better, but not until there are more women in the digital workforce.

Over the past two years, new technologies have emerged and evolved at such speeds that many organizations have had to totally reinvent their strategies, often making some eye-catching U-turns. In 2017, 74% of global mid-market CEOs had completely dismissed robotic process automation. A year later, 73% adopted artificial intelligence (AI) or were planning to adopt it. Most global executives expect a complete disruption of their sectors (87%), and many are considering digital priorities in their capital allocation planning (90%) by 2019.

In this scenario, a diverse talent pool is widely seen as essential to implement emerging technologies. In fact, 41% of global mid-market CEOs are already considering diversity as their greatest hiring priority within the digital economy. In other words, now is the ideal time to bring in more women into the industry.

Nancy Rademaker, Nexxworks, says, “Women can make a big difference in the space of tech and AI, and the digital transformative age.” Having a different perspective on things, “they are very much needed in companies to come up with new ideas, and find new opportunities, to make these organizations really competitive.”

The bug in the system

However, according to UNESCO and Forbes, less than one-third of the world’s technical workforce are women, and the numbers aren’t growing. In the field of AI, women constitute only 22%.

Bias is considered one of the main reasons for this disparity. This bias starts to manifest itself from the formative years of children. Nancy says, “The biggest problems we need to overcome to achieve gender equality in the tech sector, in my view, stem from both changing the mindset, and promoting more STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education for girls.” Then, organizations should “hire more females in to the organization first, and in to leadership roles next.” At present, only about 20% of current STEM graduates around the world are women or from ethnic minority groups.

What is more, even though technology jobs will increase from 15% to 20% by 2020, the majority of these are estimated to be filled by men. As Nancy says, “I think there is definitely a bug in the system between women and tech.”

The economic impact of women in digital

Organizations need to act on the fact that the inclusion of women is not just a responsibility but a necessity. Nancy advises businesses to “provide the same opportunities for males and females to get the adequate training to improve their skills, from a tech point of view.”

Since 2000, women-led companies received an annualized return of 25% compared with the MSCI world index of 11%. Businesses with women at the top were worth, on average, US$40m more than those without, according to the S&P Composite 1500 index. Also, boards with 30% or more women added up to 6% to their net margin. Digital needs more women and their exclusion from the economy could hinder global economic growth.

Here are what organizations can do to accelerate gender equality in technology:

  • Create programs that promote STEM education of girls
  • Hire from diverse talent pools and bring in people who have unique perspectives
  • Provide training to female employees to equip them with digital skills
  • Identify women leaders and provide them with opportunities to grow in the organization

Join the conversation #SheBelongs. Let’s progress #WomenFastForward.


To benefit from new technologies, organizations need to accelerate gender equality.

About this article

By EY Global

Ernst & Young Global Ltd.