This year’s International Women’s Day theme of #DigitALL Weds March 8th 2023 spoke strongly to us at Guild.

80% of Guild's development team is female.

Community platforms like Guild have rejected the algorithms that govern social media platforms in favour of enabling equality of voice and giving equal weighting of individual contributions.

We believe that technology should empower equality not bake in bias.

Respectful conversation in Guild communities allows people to debate solutions to inequality and address difficult questions in safe spaces.

A growing number of communities on Guild, such as Women in AI and InnovateHer, are actively working on breaking the bias in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Innovation (STEM), ensuring nobody is marginalised by technological advancement.

Certainly, our philosophy at Guild is that if we can combine honesty and respect in communities, we can learn new perspectives that can foster better understanding and a better world.

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2023 we asked Guild community hosts and members this question.

"What can businesses and individuals do to close the gender gap in digital access that keeps women from unlocking technology’s full potential?

Here are some of their responses:

"Consistency is key!

I've been working with businesses on this agenda for 10 years, and in that time we have seen some progress in achieving gender equality within technology but not enough. One thing that we have noticed is that businesses need to be consistent.

It's all well and good setting up a project to increase the amount of female senior leaders within Tech (for example), but when those projects only last 6 months, down the line you see old stereotypes and ways of working come back into the business.

Businesses need to prioritise these programmes, invest in them long-term and make sure they are backed by the senior leaders. We will not see significant change if we are not consistent."

Chelsea Slater - CEO - InnovateHer

"Having spent 26+ years in the tech industry, I have seen that there is a strong narrative where the people behind the glossy front ends of tech are seen to be “techies”, mainly men, and all the stereotypes that go with that.

Being married to a said “techie” he finds this stereotyping equally boring.

This kind of perception prevents women from seeking a career in the basements of tech development. Today only 5% of tech developers are women so there is a long way to go.

I believe businesses and individuals need to break down the mystery around technology, actively reposition it as the new cool, and proactively engage in recruiting females from a young age.  

I remember doing BBC Basic programming and Pascal for my A level, but the thought of doing a computing degree of any kind was not on the radar or encouraged. To address the gender gap, we need to continually build on the great work of initiatives such as She Codes."

Helen Curtis - Founder/CEO and host of Coterie Community

"At Guild, our technology and innovation is the product of a majority female team. Our entire business is majority female, but our product engineering even more so.

We've not consciously set out to achieve that, but in pursuing and retaining the best people to help us achieve our goals that's where we've ended up. I feel honoured to be working with such talented professionals."

Gregor Young - CEO - Guild - host of Product People

"To achieve an equitable digital future, I'd say Invest, Incentivise, Innovate and Invite.

Invest in women and girls -  to give the them training and education they need to thrive in the tech world. And invest in educating men to change the lens they see through, and help them appreciate why this is important and good for all.

Incentivise - both women and the employers who can create more opportunities to close the gap. Recognise these “pioneers”. Why incentivise the women to take on tech opportunities? Because sometimes the “options” in front of them are just more familiar and less scary.

Innovate - to create women and girl-friendly technology. Look at the markets that attract a lot of women customers or users, because they connect with the female audience. Trying to fit a woman in a man’s world is setting them up to fail.

Invite - employers, organisations and male (and female) leaders must reach out their hands to make the female candidates feel welcome and encouraged. Just having the “hardware” - the programme, or the money or the roles - is not enough. We need to make the technology space inviting."

Candy Bowles - Co-lead Marketing & Comms and host of Community Impact Challenge (CIC) StartNOW - a challenge to help you decarbonise

"My answer: only connect. Know that together we can achieve more than alone.

If we want to accelerate positive change, we can all be changemakers and do small things to make a difference - but when we connect and share insights, ideas and help across industries and communities, the impact is exponential."

Sophie Devonshire - CEO - The Marketing Society - co-host of Marketing Society Coffeehouse

"I am a big believer in being the change you want to see in the world.

See something that needs changing? Find a way to change it.

We have an enormous amount of power at our fingertips and access to the audiences we need to build momentum. The action of one can become the action of many."

Emma Sexton - Founder - The Inside Out Community

"Great technology is created through diversity and innovation. It feels crazy that it's the year 2023 and we STILL have to say it, but any business that builds technology or innovates without equality are short-sighted and any technology that marginalises groups of people is plain wrong.

Individuals and businesses should do all they can in their power to close the gender gap in digital access, digital development and design. If you are designing for 50% of the population, then you're adding to the problem."

Caroline O’Keeffe -  Chief Marketing Officer - The Happiness Index - co-host of Happiness & Humans

"I’ve left more than one role in technology due to gendered harassment, and I’m far from alone. Without structural safety, cultures across technology will alienate at best, and at worst, harm, non-dominant groups of people working within them.

I’d like to see investment (public and private) bound to true cultures of safety for all - no free passes for start-ups or businesses to get there on their own, if and when they feel like it.

If you don’t take this seriously, you’re engaging in performative diversity and you shouldn’t be rewarded.”

Venessa Paech - Founder,  Australian Community Managers - member of Professional Community Leaders

"One of our Socially Mobile teachers really did capture what I've been struggling to get down here on this question. I thought this was word perfect from Advita Patel.

I'm not really a big fan of awareness days. But, I do have an affection for International Women's Day because I birthed my very amazing daughter on the 8th March. It always feels special that a powerful wee woman was born on this day.

There is a lot to do in this space, which absolutely goes beyond giving ourselves a hug. I've been thinking about the theme of inclusion and gender gap for all of those who identify as a woman, in advance of IWD 2023.

Businesses can ensure that their policies allow for the those who wish to progress in the digital industry space. They can look at gender pay gap, they can look at the amount of time allocated to training, learning and thinking. They can think about resource in terms of time and learning opportunities so that all women can get the support they need in this very very fast moving area. It takes a lot of time to keep up with the daily changes in the world of digital.

Individuals? We can continue to support each other. I have a very treasured network of women who support each other in the application and learning of best practice for inclusive and accessible digital PR and comms.

We stick together and back each other up when the conversations are challenging and difficult. There are many amazing prominent women in the digital field providing expertise around subjects such as ethical use of AI, inclusive language in our digital outputs, accessible design as a fundamental way of working.

Lets celebrate the changemakers and make sure that their voices are heard and shared."

Leanne Hughes - Communications Lead, NHS and Socially Mobile Alumni

"Businesses actually need to treat the gender gap (as well as other types of diversity) in digital access with the same respect they treat technology disruption and potential itself.

Executives see making the most of technological impact as a prime directive - digital transformation is probably the most prolific C-Suite issue of the past decade. But we don't ascribe the same importance to taking proactive steps in expanding the access to and input from people that fall outside the tech majority of white males.

We don't ensure teams creating products for masses bring the considerations, knowledge and experiences to make those products meet the breadth of needs and challenges (and address externalities) of the masses they're for.

This isn't just about doing something out of the sense of what's right, building better businesses and better products. The data around improving diversity supports this: A highly diverse environment can improve team performance by up to 30% (Gartner). The most diverse companies outperform their less diverse peers by 36% in profitability (McKinsey). High sense of belonging can result in a 56% spike in job performance, a 50% reduction in turnover risk and a 75% reduction in sick days (Harvard Business Review).

Closing gender gaps in digital access needs to be reframed, and instead of being seen as a business cost we need to see it for what it is: It's as much of a business investment as marketing or R&D."

Kristian Hoareau Foged - Insights & Analytics Comms Consultant and Founder - Simply Thought

"Breaking inequality starts with education and requires direct action.

If individuals and businesses really want to close the gender gap in technology, then support the charities and social enterprises that work hard in this space with money, time and mentors.

At Guild, we're proud to support organisations like InnovateHer who go directly to schools and spark interest in STEM-related careers and opportunities with girls and non-binary students before they start to choose exam subjects."

Michelle Goodall - Chief Marketing Officer - Guild - host of Comms & PR Pioneers

Further resources:

Find out more about International Women's Day

Request to join these communities on Guild that work towards equality and inclusivity:

Building Inclusive Cultures

She Has No Limits

Race Equality Matters

Anti Racism Innovation Community

InnovateHer Ambassador Network

Women In AI Scotland

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