While issues around diversity and inclusion have been well and truly thrust into the spotlight following a year of sexual harassment and gender pay inequality scandals, the numbers still paint a bleak picture.
In the UK, there is still no single sector where women make up more than 33 per cent of total senior management positions, with the average hovering depressingly at 25 per cent.
The technology industry is one of the worst offenders for gender disparity. Studies have shown that while women make up 50 per cent of gamers and social media users, only one in six tech specialists in the UK are female. What’s worse, fewer than one in 10 of these women tech specialists are in leadership positions.
The figures highlight how, despite decades of attempts to remove the glass ceiling and unconscious bias across the UK workforce, the barriers keeping women from the top positions are still very much in place.
It’s important to note that there has been a concerted effort from employers over recent years to try to redress this gender and ethnic imbalance, not least due to the realisation it makes good business sense as much as ethical sense.
But if we want to go further, technology has a leading role to play.
Historically, one of the main obstacles faced by women aiming for the top positions has been a pervasive and extensive unconscious bias. Social stereotypes, both positive and negative, that exist subconsciously have for centuries dictated the behaviour and decision-making processes when hiring or promoting employees.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) software algorithms are now being used by a number of graduate employers and recruiters to eliminate unconscious bias across the workplace.
Driven intrinsically by data and trained rigorously to ignore historical prejudices, this AI is helping to ensure that all candidates are judged based solely on their merit and experience, instead of subconscious human bias.
Blockchain, the technology that underpins cryptocurrencies, is also beginning to be harnessed by companies to verify qualifications and experience. These verified CVs can document all qualifications immutably, meaning that there will be no doubt as to who is the most experienced candidate for promotion.
Female candidates will also gain confidence, going into the application process secure in the knowledge that they will be judged solely on their experience, and not conceptions about their gender.
The rise of readily-available communication tools such as IM, Slack and iMeet has also helped remove many barriers that have been raised against women reaching the highest roles in business. Enabling rapid decision making, regardless of location or time, everyone involved can be kept up to date on important details and issues that need resolving by harnessing this on-the-go technology.
This flexible, smarter working is no longer a taboo for many businesses, and it is enabling working mothers or those restricted by location to continue working successfully while accommodating their personal lives.
Technology has been a fundamental force of change in every aspect of our lives, so it is unsurprising that it could be part of the answer to breaking the glass ceiling.
We still have a long way to go before the statistics get to a level we can be proud of, but through embracing AI, blockchain and other technologies, we can all shape the future business landscape to be a more positive, equal one.