Companies and Algorithms Need Women in Tech

Our team at Castlight Financial is growing by the week and we were delighted to note this week that, despite the fact that just 17% of people working in technology across the UK are female, 23% of our employees are women. And in the even more traditionally male-dominated developer sector, 57% in our development team are female.

These are important statistics for a number of reasons and not just the obvious ones. Of course we want to be sure we are attracting the best people for the job and not just the best men for the job. But it goes deeper and wider than that.

Talking around the table with some of our female developers this week, it was interesting to listen to their take on the importance of encouraging more women into tech roles. Clare said: “Where previously ‘IT’ sometimes felt like a separate subject, now it feels more like tech is integrated into many different areas, and often in service of something else. For example, at Castlight we’re harnessing tech to try and deliver a safer financial world and that has a wide appeal”. Laura, who recently joined us from New Zealand, added: “We’re not just writing code. We are problem solving and that’s gender neutral. In fact a diverse team has the advantage of accessing different ways of problem solving.” Amy pointed out that “we won’t even be having this discussion in a few years time as kids are being brought up on the iPad, not gendered in any way.” And Hayley highlighted that attracting more women into tech is a self-fulfilling prophecy. “The more women on a development team, the more appealing that company is to women. I have been put off applying for jobs where I knew I would the only female developer.”

So, of course it’s good for companies to attract and sustain gender diverse development teams. And we will continue to recruit the best people for the job and for the team.

However, where the issue of women in tech gets really interesting is that encouraging women into tech isn’t just good for their careers and good for tech companies, its good for the users of tech too. Algorithms need women.

Hannah Kuchler in the Financial Times has said: ‘Given that algorithms are rapidly becoming responsible for more decisions about our lives, deployed by banks, healthcare companies and governments, built-in gender bias is a concern. The AI industry, however, employs an even lower proportion of women than the rest of the tech sector, and there are concerns that there are not enough female voices influencing machine learning. Kuchler goes on to quote Sara Wachter-Boettcher, author of Technically Wrong, who says: ‘I think we don’t often talk about how it is bad for the technology itself, we talk about how it is bad for women’s careers. Does it matter that the things that are profoundly changing and shaping our society are only being created by a small slice of people with a small sliver of experience.’

Yes Ms Wachter-Boettcher, it matters very much.

Our affordability products are for everyone who needs them, developed and created by our team of talented men and women. That’s something that’s important to us and, increasingly, to the users of our products.

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