How freelancing can improve diversity in tech
Diversity is crucial to the tech industry's development and success, and female representation is an important piece of the puzzle. One Deloitte Insight analysis predicted that female representation in technical roles in large technology companies would increase by 0.6% from 2019 to 2022.
The balance is gradually being redressed, and new opportunities are arising for female tech professionals that could facilitate their prominence in the industry. Here Ashmita Das, CEO of open talent platform Kolabtree, discusses why flexible working, such as freelancing, is key for improving female representation in tech.
The world of tech jobs is varied. For example UK National Careers Service lists over 40 careers, including app developer, database administrator, network engineer, and web developer. Most businesses can benefit from tech in some way, so there are plenty of opportunities out there for tech professionals.
However, the diversity of the tech jobs market is not shared by its workforce, with a clear gap in female representation. However, I see a promising future and an industry primed to take advantage of new technologies and working models, which will help it address the imbalance by attracting aspiring female specialists.
The impact of hybrid working
At the start of the pandemic, businesses rapidly adapted their working practices to facilitate remote and hybrid working models. For instance, IT and networking systems were quickly adopted, expanded or improved, which created many more work opportunities for tech professionals.
This transformation had the knock-on effect of improving companies' ability to communicate and work with external, remote professionals. Therefore, freelancing is now a more viable option for both male and female tech professionals that can help them join and progress within the industry.
Traditional employment — having a permanent role in one organisation — often comes with rigid or set hours, which can make it difficult to make time for life events and responsibilities. For example, for those with children, balancing childcare and having time off around the holidays can be difficult.
Having control over when, where and how you work is a dream that many aspire to. Freelancing can offer this, as external tech professionals can set the days and hours that they work, meaning they are in complete control of their schedule.
A major career hurdle for some women is maternity leave and taking time out to raise a family. According to research by Ipsos Mori, almost three in ten women (29%) thought taking maternity leave had a negative impact on their career, while less than half the number of men (13%) noticed the same effect following paternity leave. Therefore, there is a clear gender gap in perceptions towards the impact of parental leave.
With some female professionals taking a nine-month period away from work, it’s not uncommon for some to return on reduced hours afterwards. Meanwhile, freelancing provides a way to continue progressing throughout this time, continuing to work if they have the capacity. They can also increase their hours as they see fit and take on more projects when ready.
Freelancing can help female tech professionals build experience in a way that isn't possible in traditional full-time jobs. When hired as a permanent member of staff, in-house experts are often only taught the specific skills relevant to their role, with limited opportunity to diversify.
However, freelance technology experts can carefully select their projects and gain exposure to a wider array of experience. For example, a computer network expert for a school might take a project working on a system in a different field, or maybe work for a startup.
With female representation in tech gradually rising, flexible working in the form of freelancing can offer new opportunities that will inspire more women to join the profession. Therefore, it will go a long way in helping to close the industry’s gender gap.