Where are all the female cloud professionals?

WITI News Staff

August 18, 2019

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By Zoe Morris, President at Nigel Frank International

Cloud technology is everywhere. Three-quarters of businesses run at least one application in the cloud, and that number is growing constantly as organizations continue to digitally overhaul their operations.

Cloud computing isn't new and it isn't niche. Competition for the growing number of businesses adopting cloud services is making it more accessible than ever, as vendors like Microsoft and AWS compete to roll out the best in cutting-edge features at the lowest prices.

As trust in cloud platforms increases, and the world rolls toward a more digitally-led way of doing things, spending on cloud tech is exploding - the value of the worldwide public cloud services market is projected to grow 17.5% by the end of the year, climbing to a total of $214.3 billion, up from $182.4 billion in 2018.

As a result, the demand for professionals who can create, implement, and manage cloud platforms is booming. And yet, despite all this opportunity, with businesses crying out for cloud talent, women are still massively underrepresented in the sector. In our recent survey of professionals in the Microsoft cloud ecosystem, just 7% of our respondents were female.

Tech's gaping gender gap

The cloud community's representation problem won't be a surprise to anyone familiar with the tech sector at large. Since the 1980s, the number of women making a career in computing has tanked.

Pushed out by male competitors, driven away by stereotypes in marketing, and steered away from STEM subjects in schools, female representation in tech has severely lagged for decades. In the US, women make up more than half the total workforce, but hold less than one in five tech jobs.

In the past few years, there's been a concerted effort across the industry to change this, and give women the confidence, support, and opportunities they need to build a career in tech.

Of course, promoting diversity and inclusion in the sector is simply the right thing to do, but that's not the only reason for the increased drive to get women into tech roles. There's a pressing practical issue at play here, too - the skills gap.

How addressing gender imbalance can help close the skills gap in cloud computing

New tech roles are being created faster than they can be filled. It's estimated that by 2026 there'll be almost 3.5 million tech-related openings in the U.S. Even if every person graduating with a computing degree between now and 2026 took up one of those roles, they'd still only fill 17% of them.

Though promoting cloud computing as a viable career option for all students is a start, it's clear that we can't rely on the education system alone to produce the talent necessary to prevent the skills gap from widening. We need to think outside the box when it comes to attracting and retaining tech professionals.

How can businesses promote diversity among their cloud teams?
No more ninjas

You may not realize it, but you could be putting a secret code in your job ads that is telling female tech talent to steer clear of your business.

You say you want a ninja, a rock star, someone who's decisive, headstrong, and competitive. But female tech professionals might read: male. Using words like these can paint your business as a "boy's club," and subconsciously deter women from applying.

There's another potential pitfall when it comes to job ads: the spec itself. Generally speaking, men tend to be more confident about their abilities than their female peers. In fact, men will apply for a role if they meet around 60% of the criteria, while women will only put themselves forward if they match the spec almost exactly. When you put out a job ad, try scaling back the spec, and including only the absolute essentials - this could lower the confidence barrier that many qualified, experienced female professionals have to vault before they hit "apply."

Don't just tell, show

One of the major reasons women feel deterred from the sector is that they don't see themselves in tech's workforce. If a woman looks at the roster of a tech company and sees that they employ a paltry number of female professionals, they'll wonder why. Is this not an inclusive place to work? Will my contribution be valued here? Is there space for me to grow and develop?

Think about how you present your company to the world. Make sure that your female staff are visible in your marketing, your branding, your engagement with the cloud community. You can say that you're an inclusive workplace until you're blue in the face, but women need to see it to believe it.

Provide support

It's not just about getting women through the door. You need to work out how to keep them, too. Turnover among women in tech is twice as high as it is for men. To help female cloud professionals overcome the obstacles they face throughout their careers, consider setting up a mentorship scheme to connect female employees with those in leadership positions.

Having a sympathetic ear, a voice in your corner, and someone to advise you is hugely important for women in tech, and can be the difference between a diverse and supportive workplace and a revolving door situation.

Equal pay for equal work

In our aforementioned survey, we asked cloud professionals if they believed their employer paid male and female employees equally for equal work. Sixty percent of men said yes, while only 28% of female respondents agreed.

We simply cannot expect women to feel that the cloud sector values and supports them if they don't believe they're being paid fairly. There's more to inclusivity than money, but it's a good place to start.

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