Gender diversity: women in the data centre talent pipeline
Fri 18 Mar 2022
Recently, much attention has been paid to encouraging women to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). From early education initiatives to university scholarships, to after-school programmes like Girls Who Code, there has been a broad global movement in support of female representation in technical fields.
Moreover, technology companies have been brought under fire for a lack of representation among their workers.
Even though half the workforce is female, they comprise less than a quarter of the employees in technical positions at big tech companies: Microsoft – 23%, Google – 25%, Apple – 24%, Facebook – 24%, Amazon – n/a.
Also concerning is the fact that fewer than half of the leadership positions at these companies are occupied by women – only 29% at Microsoft. This means that if the situation is to change, the cultural shift will have to be driven by a leadership group that is largely made up of men.
How is this trend toward underrepresentation reflected in the data centre?
In the UK, the number of women in STEM careers reached 1 million in 2019, almost double the number from a decade before. However, this growth has not been consistent across the four categories of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). In fact, in the UK technology sector, female representation has remained at 16% from 2009-2019.
The data centre industry suffers from a lack of female employees in the technical, operations, and leadership of public and private companies. From design and construction to operations and strategy, the data centre is an industry that is dominated both locally and globally by white males.
One stand-out exception to this finding in data centre executive teams is at Switch. At Switch, women represent more than half of the leadership team, including the C-Suite. But Switch is the exception, rather than the rule.
This is distressing in the basic fact that it seems that women’s opportunities are limited in a growing, lucrative field of employment. It is an even larger problem when viewed through the lens of a critical labour shortage. With a more inclusive employment base, the pool of available talent would be that much larger, and help bridge the current labour shortage with skilled, talented workers.
What is being done to change this?
There are many organisations that are focused on increasing women’s presence in STEM, technology, data analytics, and the data centre. These organisations provide mentoring and support for girls and women interested in STEM careers, including:
The UK government has also stepped in to support girls that are interested in studying for careers in STEM, with programmes such as Improving Gender Balance (focused on physics) and Gender Balance in Computing.
Heather Dooley, Chief of Staff of Data Centre Business Operations at Google, said in a panel of women in the data centre industry: “It’s everyone in this room’s responsibility to raise awareness, and that’s just the first step. I work closely with my recruiters and adjust their lenses. I think it’s our job to educate people on the front line and help them adjust their perspectives,” to incorporate more inclusive hiring practices.