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Four countries’ tech sectors reveal gender inequality

An EU-backed study has shown that less than 13 % of tech entrepreneurs are women in Ireland, Israel, Norway and Sweden.

Society

Their cultures may be different, but Ireland, Israel, Norway and Sweden have a few things in common. For one, they’re all high-income countries with small populations and thriving technology ecosystems. They also all rank high in gender equality based on the United Nations’ Gender Inequality Index for 2019. However, despite these positive characteristics, there’s still a long way to go before women are no longer considered the minority in these countries’ technology sectors. In fact, women in Ireland, Israel, Norway and Sweden make up less than 25 % of the tech workforce and under 13 % of tech entrepreneurs, according to data compiled by a 3-year research project called GENRE. With support from the EU-funded GENDER NET Plus project, the GENRE research team has been studying trends in women’s technology entrepreneurship in the four countries since March 2019. Prof. Sybille Heilbrunn of GENRE project partner Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee, Israel, believes that tech ecosystems should be the ones to adapt to the needs of women, and not the other way round. “You can’t expect only the women to change. If the system itself isn’t supportive, it won’t fit,” she observes in an article posted on the ‘Science|Business’ website. To gain a clearer picture of gender dynamics in technology ecosystems, the researchers have been interviewing women entrepreneurs, incubator managers and venture capitalists.

Positive takeaways from the COVID-19 pandemic

One reason why technology sectors find it difficult to attract women entrepreneurs could be the need to adopt a traditional way of working – sacrificing your life and being on the job 24/7. In that respect, the current health crisis could promote greater gender diversity in these sectors. By forcing companies to adapt to new ways of working and encouraging greater workplace flexibility, it may actually help to change people’s attitudes more easily. “Maybe we can take from this COVID crisis something which is going to make us better and a little bit different, rather than only looking to go back to where we were,” remarks Prof. Heilbrunn.

Gender parity not the goal

The research team plans to release its findings and recommendations later this year. However, as pointed out in the ‘Science|Business’ article, we shouldn’t expect a set of measures that will point the way to achieving gender parity in tech. In fact, as researcher Caren Weinberg of Israel’s Ruppin Academic Center warns, gender parity isn’t necessarily what we should aim for. Instead, the goal should be for women who are interested in working in the tech industry to have the resources and support to do so. “What we need to make sure of is that we allow those who want to be in the system to remain in the system and not always jump to these grand conclusions that it’s all bad, if it’s not 50/50,” Weinberg argues. The findings of the GENRE project will be used to inform policy development aimed at inclusivity and sustainability for the benefit of both women and men. GENDER NET Plus (ERA-NET Cofund Promoting Gender Equality in H2020 and the ERA) aims to strengthen links between researchers in different countries, support gender equality through institutional change, and help to integrate sex and gender analysis into research and funding programmes. For more information, please see: GENDER NET Plus project website GENRE project web page

Keywords

GENDER NET Plus, GENRE, gender, equality, inequality, technology, tech

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