Only 15% of Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) at FTSE 100 firms are women as female tech champions continue to struggle to break into the top jobs, research by developer recruitment platform CodinGame reveals.
Only two companies in the FTSE 100 have both a female CTO and CEO. They are Severn Trent, led by Liv Garfield where Jayne Showell is CTO. At GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Dame Emma Walmsley is CEO and Karenann Terrell is Chief Digital & Technology Officer.
GSK is one of the three firms in the top 10 by market capitalisation that have female CTOs, alongside AstraZeneca and British American Tobacco.
The issue of gender diversity on company boards has been high on the political agenda for years and progress has been broadly good.
In fact, a third of board roles at FTSE 100 firms are now held by women, according to the government-backed Hampton-Alexander Review2 of gender equality in business. This target of 33% representation at board level was reached by Britain’s leading firms ahead of the 2021 target but this success places the lack of progress among CTO roles in stark relief.
It’s a particularly disappointing outcome given that a woman is credited with being the world’s first ever coder. Ada Lovelace worked alongside Charles Babbage, creator of what is widely held to be the first computer in the 1830s, the Analytical Engine. Lovelace is known to have written down an algorithm so the computer could calculate the Bernoulli Numbers.
Gender equality has proved a stubborn problem to shift because there exist stereotypes of what a coder looks like — typically a man between 25 and 35 years old. This has led to accusations that the industry is prone to recruiting clones. Some recruiters are taking steps to remove bias from the hiring process.
CodinGame attempts to solve this problem by giving recruiters only that information that is relevant to their candidate search, keeping them in the dark about a potential recruit’s sex and gender until later in the process.
Aude Barral, co-founder of developer recruitment platform CodinGame said, “There’s no good reason why women are not well represented at CTO level. This research shows that when it comes to jobs in tech, FTSE100 firms are behind the curve and need to urgently investigate why this is happening. Gender diversity in tech is a global challenge.
“Campaigning on this issue should have ceased to be necessary long ago but tech recruiters can be prone to hiring clones who fit an expectation of what a developer is, not to mention the fact that unconscious biases still imply that women may perform worse than men in developer roles. There is also a natural temptation to revert to seeking out candidates who resemble staff they have hired successfully before. As a result, the tech industry remains a male-dominated world.
“If you ask the coding community about gender bias, they will proudly tell you that sex and gender don’t come into it. It’s time that the industry’s public face reflected that core belief too and the first place this needs to happen is within the UK’s biggest companies.”