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Tech leadership gender parity stalls amid global shocks

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 14 Jul 2022

Despite the steady global increase of women in leadership positions over time, the technology industry is not even close to achieving levels near gender parity.

Female representation in leadership positions within the tech industry for 2022 is recorded at 24%, versus 76% of men that occupy these roles.

This is based on insights in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF’s) Global Gender Gap Report 2022, which was released yesterday.

The leadership roles included in WEF’s gender gap report sample include director, VP, chief experience officer and partner.

According to the report, in 2022, only select industries have levels near gender parity in leadership, such as non-governmental and membership organisations, education and personal services and wellbeing.

“There is significant variation across industries in the rates of hiring women into leadership. On average, more women were hired into leadership in industries where women were already highly represented.

“Similarly, more men were higher into leadership positions in industries over-represented by men.”

Even though it’s lagging in achieving gender equality for women in leadership, the tech industry is noted among those that are accelerating hiring of women into leadership.

“Relative to 2016, the industries showing the biggest improvement in their hiring rate for women into leadership are technology, energy, and supply chain and transportation.”

Compiled annually since 2006, the Global Gender Gap Index measures progress towards gender parity across four key dimensions: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.

This year, the index benchmarked 146 countries. Of these, 102 countries have been represented in every edition of the index since 2006.

Compounded by health, economic and political shocks, the recovery towards gender parity has been insufficient, with much of the progress made since the inception of the index drastically reversed over the pandemic, according to the report.

Overall, the WEF report found gender parity is stalling, saying it will take 132 years to reach gender parity, with only 68.1% of the gender gap closed.

While it’s an improvement compared to the 2021 estimate of 136 years to parity, it does not compensate for the generational loss which occurred between 2020 and 2021, says the report.

In 2020, the gender gap was set to close within 100 years.

Speaking during the launch of the report, WEF MD Saadia Zahidi said: “We’ve been doing this for about 16 years and if we continue at the current pace of change that we’ve tracked over the last decade-and-a-half, it will take 132 years to get to parity across the set of combined countries and combined set of data.

“It [the gender parity gap] was about at 100 years just before the pandemic. The pandemic and its disruptions have added essentially a couple of generations to the time it will take to reach parity.”

Even though no country has yet achieved full gender parity, the top 10 economies have closed at least 80% of their gender gaps.

The global ranking shows Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Rwanda, Nicaragua, Namibia, Ireland and Germany in the top 10 list of countries with the least gender gap in 2022, reveals the report.

Work not working for women

The report notes the gender gap in the workforce is an emerging crisis.

It states gender gaps in the workforce are driven and affected by many factors, including long-standing structural barriers, socio-economic and technological transformation, as well as economic shocks.

Sue Duke, head of global public policy and economic graph team at LinkedIn, commented: “The findings and the data in the report are very clear – even in good times work has not been working for women as well as it has been for men.

“A salient point is that especially in bad times, when there are health, economic or other shocks to the system, it is women who take the biggest hit.”

In terms of gender gaps in lifelong learning and skills prioritisation, the report found women continue to be overrepresented in education and health and welfare degree subjects compared to men.

In contrast, women are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, and the gender gap is most prevalent in ICT and engineering and manufacturing.

“Taking into account graduates from all fields, the percentage of women graduates in ICT is 1.7%, compared to 8.2% of men graduates,” it states. “In engineering and manufacturing, the same figures are 24.6% for men and 6.6% for women.”

While gender segmentation in degree choices continue in traditional education, data from Coursera finds more women than ever are skilling, reskilling and upskilling online.

Furthermore, gender gaps are substantially smaller in online enrolment than in traditional education.

“In ICT, for example, gender parity increased in online training between 2019 and 2021,” reveals the report. “However, enrolment behaviour shows that men and women’s skilling preferences continue to respond to traditional patterns, creating skilling gender gaps for both men and women.”