The number of women in the UK’s technology sector declined between the first and second quarters of the year, according to figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS).
Stats from the ONS suggest that the number of women in the industry has seen a decline of 3,000 between January and March of 2023, and April and June of 2023, despite the industry as a whole growing in numbers during the same period.
Andy Heyes, managing director UK&I and Central Europe at global technology recruiters Harvey Nash, called these numbers “disappointing” and “a concern”, adding that the effort to hire and retain women in tech should be ongoing.
“The industry needs to stay committed to driving up the number of women in tech, which is already too low. This quarter’s dip shows that it’s hard to make progress stick,” he added.
The number of women in the technology sector has been slowly climbing over the past 10 years, with the current percentage of the sector being women at approximately 22%.
But growth is slow, with many barriers making it difficult for women to pursue a career in the sector – including a lack of visible and accessible role models, unconscious bias in hiring, and a lack of inclusive culture in the sector, among other things.
The past year has seen the number of women in tech fluctuate, with a low of 447,000 in the first quarter of 2022 to a high of 532,000 in the third quarter of 2022, according to ONS figures.
The 3,000 person drop seen between Q1 and Q2 of this year followed an approximate 17,000 drop in the number of the women in the industry seen between Q4 of last year and Q1 of this year.
Meanwhile, the overall tech sector saw a jump of 85,000 to 1.73 million in the second quarter of the year when compared with the first, leaving Heyes asking whether caution over spending due to the economic climate may have had a disproportionate effect on women in the sector.
The pandemic showed a similar pattern, where women bore the brunt of care needs, making them unable to work as efficiently or having to work part time or take time off.
Hayes explained: “In recent months, with businesses under some financial pressure in a challenging wider economy, we have noticed an increase in employers specifying greater office presence and reducing some aspects of job flexibility.
“There could be a connection here to the fall in women in tech employment. Businesses need to double down on their efforts to support progressive change, and ensure their working policies don’t prevent them from attracting and retaining talented women.”
Over the past 12 months, rather than the steady growth the technology sector displayed in the year prior, there have been a couple of spikes and troughs – from the second quarter of 2022 to the third quarter of 2022, the number of people in tech grew by 92,000, then dropped by 87,000 the following quarter, dropping again in the first quarter of this year.
Despite the fluctuating numbers in the sector, technology skills are still in demand at all levels, according to Harvey Nash.
Hayes said: “At Harvey Nash, we’re seeing ongoing demand for technology staff across skillsets – in particular, developers, cyber specialists, project managers and business analysts. There is also high demand for transformational CIOs. For organisations struggling to find or make budget for permanent staff, contingent worker demand is rising too.”