International Women's Day 2024

‘Here’s to working towards a world where every other day is International Women’s Day.’

Zoe Cunningham, Director at Softwire

International Women’s Day is a global celebration that recognises the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. It is a day to reflect on the progress made, to call for change, and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women.

In the technology sector, International Women’s Day 2024 serves as a reminder of the importance of diversity and inclusion and is a day to celebrate the women who have broken barriers, challenged stereotypes, and made significant contributions to the field.

But how do we ensure that the support for women in technology goes beyond one day? We speak to technology leaders for their input into what International Women’s Day means to them and what ‘good practice’ they have seen throughout their careers.

The reality of women in tech

Despite the strides made, women are still underrepresented in technology leadership roles. According to a recent study, only 26% of individuals working in tech are women. This disparity is not only a social issue but also a business one. Diverse teams have been shown to be more innovative and better at problem-solving.

As technology leaders, it is our responsibility to foster an environment that encourages diversity and inclusion. This can be achieved by implementing policies that promote gender equality, providing mentorship and training opportunities for women, and recognising and celebrating the achievements of women in tech.

Women in Tech survey

In 2023, Women in Tech conducted a survey of over 500 tech sector workers regarding the technology gender gap. Here are the main findings:

  • 90% said that the tech sector would benefit from a gender-equal workforce.
  • 76% of the respondents said they had experienced gender bias or discrimination in the workplace at least once. This is a significant increase of 24% from the previous survey in 2019.
  • 61% of people surveyed said that their organisations are actively working on gender balance, compared to 36% in 2019.
  • 22% believed the main reason women are not moving into tech or are put off by the industry is early misconceptions based on a lack of education in young girls. Therefore, young girls require more female role models in tech so they can view a career in technology as a viable and attractive option.

So, while advances have been made in some areas since their previous 2019 study, the numbers show that almost 40% of organisations in the study may not be actively working on gender balance (and if they are, then why aren’t these people seeing it?) and those who have experienced gender bias has increased.

Therefore, it may take more than one day a year to improve the workplace and move towards gender equality.

What does International Women’s Day 2024 really mean to leaders?

Zoe Cunningham, Director at Softwire, gives her insights on International Women’s Day. She says, ‘On International Women’s Day eleven years ago, UK comedian Richard Herring started his yearly campaign on Twitter to reply every time someone asked the question “But when’s International Men’s Day?”. A thankless task, it turned out, and a helpful alternative to the often-shouted answer, “Well, it’s every OTHER day of the year” (in case you wish to celebrate, there IS an International Men’s Day, and it’s on November 19th).’

So, what does it mean to Zoe? She believes it’s an ‘Opportunity to remind ourselves of the many gender imbalances and iniquities around the world. It’s a day of celebration and a day of campaigning. It might not quite be the case that every other day is International Men’s Day, but for women struggling with unequal pay, lack of promotion opportunities and mansplaining, it can sure feel like it.’

James Heggs, CTO and Co-Founder at Tech Returners, believes that International Women’s Day provides ‘a point in time to reflect and decide upon areas pertinent to women.’

He says that for leaders like him, ‘It’s a chance to shut up, listen and observe what people share in order to continue learning. It is also an opportunity to extend the day and really take the benefits of what a diverse team of engineers will provide for you.’

Heggs believes International Women’s Day 2024 is a ‘Chance for me to remind myself of an ongoing commitment to having teams that represent different people and different backgrounds because commercially we do better!’

Why do we need diverse teams in tech?

With this in mind, it’s really useful to understand what initiatives companies are doing to support women throughout the year, whether that’s through equal pay reviews, enhanced parental leave or flexible working policies, tailored development opportunities or women’s health support.

At Softwire, for example, they have created a network that allows shared experiences, support and activity as an ongoing event. Cunningham says, ‘In 2021 we started a women and non-binary people’s network at Softwire, named after Hypatia (the Alexandrian mathematician). The Hypatia network organises monthly lunches and larger events (my favourite was a trip to the Suffragette-inspired musical, Sylvia) and provides a safe space for people to discuss their experiences.’

She adds, ‘Here’s to working towards a world where every other day is International Women’s Day.’

Heggs experienced the commercial impact a diverse team could have during a team backlog refinement session.

He says, ‘A team of 7 technical folks were discussing a ticket around a report to be produced by the SaaS software we worked on. The product manager outlined that the customer wished to see a report, by month, outlining spend. 6 out of 7 of the team didn’t interrupt, but it took one engineer to raise the question.

‘She asked what was a month? Was it 30 days? 31 days? calendar month? What if we are halfway through a month did you want 15 dots on the chart or just one? This directly impacted the outcome of what we were to produce both visually but also detail of technical implementation and data buckets in our DB.’

And the impact of this conversation? He said that it saved them ‘around £9000 of going into a sprint that may have been mis-implemented.’

Tech talent and retention

Predictions by Microsoft state that by 2025, there will be almost 150 million new jobs in data, cyber, AI and software, yet further research suggests of the 5.8 million new graduates available to fill these jobs in 2025, only a fifth will be women.

But it’s not just about attracting women into tech; it’s about keeping them in the industry.

Mark Batty, Fractional CTO, comments on the staggering research by Code First Girls and Tech Talent Charter (TTC) that highlights almost half of women in tech leave by the time they’re 35-years-old. He believes we therefore need to empower organisations to retain women in the tech industry.

So, how can tech leaders help the industry to retain women in tech? Batty says, ‘As a CTO and former software engineer, I witnessed firsthand the significance of this problem. Women in technology consistently put in extra effort and study than their male counterparts just to be treated equally. However, those who persisted emerged as exceptional developers, team leaders, and managers.’

His suggestions for offering women ongoing support and equal opportunities in the workplace include:

  • Mentorship programs fostering guidance and support.
  • Cultivate an inclusive culture that values diverse perspectives.
  • Tailored professional development opportunities.
  • Diversity assessments and improvement strategies.
  • Should be obvious – but equal pay!


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