Women in tech are a real problem. They’re a problem because they’re not there, not in the same numbers as their male counterparts. They've been absent from the conversation. But this is changing - we're seeing and hearing from talented women in tech roles who are reaching out, starting conversations and shining their beacon on an industry that can, and needs to do better at facilitating equality. We're seeing more women represented on ad tech panels and their insights are both meaningful and challenging.
It’s time to not only open the doors of technical roles to women, but to encourage them to step through. We need more women in tech, to give them the opportunity to influence a new generation of creative, skilled and driven tech leaders, with disparate experiences, ideas and opinions.
Slowly we’re starting to see an emergence of female driven content, and startups being chaired by women. And, we’re beginning to hear a dialogue between women who are supporting each other, rather than taking a purely competitive stance in the workplace.
All that said - when we take a look at the number of women in tech roles globally - we start to worry considerably.
According to Forbes 'Apple has 20% of women employees in technology; Google has 17% of women in its workforce, while Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter have 16.6%, 15% and 10% respectively.
I encourage you to read the full Forbes article which goes on to provide a long list of disheartening stats about women in tech companies, especially those in leadership positions.
The technology sector has become such a huge growth machine and it will impact future generations in such a powerful way. We need women to be part of that influence, we need their ideas, their leadership, their skills and their communication. We need women in tech to be seen and heard to inspire the next generation of female techies - and we need tech giants like Google and Apple to lead the charge by changing the way the recruit.
At Coull, we're very proud of having the best people in development and we are keen to grow our female to male ratio of employees. Liv Franzén is currently representing women in tech as a developer at Coull - so who better to fill in some of the gaps in our understanding of why so few women are in her position. I spoke to her to find out exactly what her experience has been:
What made you get into tech in the first place, what was so appealing about it?
I was fascinated by computers as a child and had a natural talent for math, logic & problem-solving. I also knew I wanted to do something creative and development is all about making things. I didn’t have much exposure to tech in school - the computer programming classes were truly dreadful, perfectly uninspiring.
What was the process like for becoming a developer?
After some Film Studies, I did a Graphic Design / New Media course, where I got hands on with coding, which sparked the geek inside me, and I decided that I wanted to take computer programming further. So I went on to study a Computer Science major with Digital Arts minor degree, after which I went straight into a job developing multimedia science software.
Did you find there were many females studying with you and do you know many other women who are developers?
There were many women on my university course, but strangely hardly any in the workspace. I’ve seen a pattern that women with tech background take on more administrative / project management type jobs. I know some lady developers socially, but my work colleagues throughout my career have been almost exclusively male. It’s a shame that women techies are so scarce, but then the general lack of diversity - not just the gender polarisation - is a limitation for this industry.
What are your biggest challenges?
The speed of innovation and rapid change in the development world, I think most [front end] developers struggle with this to some degree. It’s been specifically noticeable after taking time out after having kids - it is a quite a mountain to climb to get back after taking a year or so out.
For those playing at home that do know a bit about dev work and are pondering the different areas they might get into - what sort of work do you find the most interesting?
I enjoy the visual side of front-end programming - 3D / WebGL, generative art and data visualisation. There are loads of inspiring projects out there - much of which is open source.
Do you ever feel the pressure of being outnumbered by men in your industry or do you see it more of an opportunity?
I honestly never felt that being a female in the tech industry has been a problem. People in generally are positively surprised if anything.
Why do you think men dominate this industry to the extent they currently do?
Not sure. It’s possible that young girls don’t get inspired to explore if they have the aptitude for this industry. Maybe it is cooler for boys to be geeky than for girls? There is definitely a perception problem with tech not being a woman's domain…
What advice do you have for women who want to get into tech, as you have?
It’s not all that easy to figure out what you should do with your life, regardless of gender. If anything, I would advise any young person to not be afraid to go against the grain, if that’s what’s needed to follow your path.
You have two lovely daughters; would you encourage them into a profession as a techie if they showed an interest or aptitude for it?
Yes, absolutely. They should follow their interests whatever they may be. Right now, the older wants to be an artist and the younger one wants to be a ladybird.
Do you find your colleagues and peers in development supportive of you and has this always been the case?
Yes, I find people that work in the digital industry and the wider tech community to be a friendly, supportive and progressive lot.
We want to actively encourage more women to join the tech sector. The success of women in tech roles at Coull has directly impacted the successes of our business and providing opportunities for women to take on senior roles is something we strive to provide.
'“If companies start early with diversity and inclusion, they don’t have to bolt it on later, which is much harder,” Erica Baker, Build and Release Engineer at Slack Technologies via The Times - Women in Tech Band Together to Track Diversity, After Hours
If all the women’s demonstration marches in the US and around the world this week haven’t got you feeling inspired to get behind them and provide those opportunities, maybe the success stories of women in ad tech will.
Next week we chat to Michelle Bommer, head of ad ops at Coull and hear from two female directors at the IAB UK. Then we'll be interviewing Coull Compliance manager Nicola Woodford and demand side account manager Larua Matthews.
Be want you want to be - if that's a ladybird, then be that ladybird!