Women working in tech

Celebrating International Woman’s Day: A look at inspirational female figures in tech and the value of gender diversity in the workforce

International Woman’s Day (IWD) is held every year on March 8. This global commemorative day celebrates women’s social and political achievements, while calling for greater gender equality.

IWD’s roots date back to 1908 in New York, when the Socialist Party of America organised a Women’s Day and marched through the city demanding better pay, shorter working hours and voting rights.

A year later, the first National Women’s Day was celebrated in the US on February 28. In 1913 it was decided the day would be celebrated on March 8.

In 1975, the United Nations adopted the day which has been an international day marking women’s rights ever since.

Over the decades, inroads have certainly been made in relation to women’s rights and bringing gender equality to the workforce. For example, figures compiled by the Pew Research Centre show that women make up 40 percent of the workforce in 80 countries.

While ground has been made in bridging the gender gap, there is still a long way to go in relation to equality in the workforce.

Figures reveal that women at some of the UK’s biggest companies are paid less than half of their male counterparts. The World Economic Forum forecasts the gender gap won’t fully close until 2186.

In the race to bridge the gender equality gap in the workforce, government-backed targets have been set to fill 33% of board positions in FTSE companies with women by 2020.

The benefits of bringing gender diversity to the workforce

Organisations actively employing more women reap many rewards.

Such benefits include giving business access to the best available talent, from lower-skilled levels to executive roles.

There is also evidence that appointing women onto teams and boards can increase productivity, innovation and creativity.

Other rewards of bringing greater gender diversity to a workforce include the strengthening of team dynamics, optimising the decision-making process and creating a better working environment.

Organisations that are proactively recruiting women to cover a diverse range of roles and levels can also be seen as having a modern, progressive ethos and attitude. Consequently, such companies become sought-after to work for, thus attracting the best talent and retaining a happy, loyal workforce.

Being contented with their employer, staff are less likely to seek employment elsewhere, subsequently increasing retention and reducing staff turnover rates.

Overall, greater diversity within an organisation’s personnel creates effective teams, which ultimately leads to better business.

Inspirational female figures in tech

Testament to the integral role women play in driving innovation and business success, is the part women have played over the years within the world of tech.

One such figure is Frances Elizabeth “Betty” Holberton, creator of the first multi-purpose computer.

During WWII a team of America women were given the job title ‘Computer’ and tasked with manually calculating ballistics trajectories for the US Army. The project led to Holberton and four other women create what was the world’s first multipurpose computer, programmed to make multiple calculations.

The computer invention that had come before Holberton’s creation was a solo functioning machine that was used to break Enigma.

Other truly inspirational female figures in tech are Katherine G Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, three black women, who in the twentieth century, defied the odds and played an integral role in launching the first man into space to orbit Earth.

The three women calculated the data required to launch NASA’s first successful space mission, during a time when technology was not capable of making such complex calculations.

Given the immense achievements of women in leadership, business and industry over the decades, it is only right that on March 8, women around the world will unite to recognise and celebrate women’s achievements, as well as highlighting the inequalities still affecting women in work and calling for such disparities to be stamped out.

The savviest of companies, regardless of size, sector or location, will take note of the ongoing efforts to create more gender diverse teams and recognise the multitude of benefits hiring women brings to a workforce.

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