WOMEN IN CLIMATE: AN OPPORTUNITY TO BRIDGE THE TECH GENDER GAP AND ACCELERATE THE GREEN TRANSITION
Over the past decade, some progress has been made to increase the representation of women in roles and industries that have historically favoured their male counterparts. However, women’s inclusion in the workplace must be bolstered by new thinking and innovative support, as the developing 4th industrial revolution may weaken, or even reverse, our achievements to date. Emphasising the connections between technology and climate action may be one innovative way we can address this challenge.
Jobs of tomorrow are tech and green!
Reflecting the adoption of technologies in our daily life and in almost every industry, the 2020 LinkedIn Emerging Jobs report highlights that new technologies and data science are the two main growth drivers of tomorrow’s job market. Experts estimate that 97 million new roles may emerge in the computer, mathematical, architecture and engineering fields by 2025.1
Tech is growing alongside the shift to a low carbon economy, also impacting the job market with an expected 65 million new jobs by 2030. The $26 trillion economic opportunity afforded by the green transition2 will include tech. Companies already bridging these sectors are growing rapidly, such as Uncharted Power, the energy start-up founded by Jessica Mathews which has expanded from making energy-generating play products to designing smart-city infrastructure.
Unfortunately, today, the tech industry continues to suffer from lack of female representation. For example, women make up only 32% of the workforce in Data and AI, 20% in Engineering, and 14% in Cloud Computing 3. In the 150 largest public technology and life sciences companies in Silicon Valley by revenue (SV150), in 2020 only 25.7% of director positions were held by women and only 4.7% had female CEOs4
This trend could accelerate in the coming years due to the scarcity of girls who choose to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and careers. According to the European Commission’s study Women in the Digital Age (2018), only 24 out of every 1000 female tertiary graduates has studied an ICT related subject — of which only six go on to work in the digital sector.5
It is crucial that this current imbalance is addressed, for women and for society but also for our chances of successfully and justly combatting climate change. Studies have shown that gender diverse teams are more innovative and that they design solutions that are more responsive to the experiences and needs of different groups. At the same time, for women themselves to benefit from the green transition, they must be present in the industries that will drive that transition. Tech is one of them.
Thankfully, there is much we can do!
Changing the narrative could help to attract more women to tech jobs.
Perceptions of technology as a non-mainstream, low creativity and highly technical activity reserved to a few enthusiastic boys have persistently endured. However, technology has profoundly evolved beyond these outdated pre-conceptions and today billions of people are using tech-oriented solutions that are increasingly purpose-centered and impactful. This is particularly true for climate issues, exemplified by the abundance of innovative climate technology being developed to monitor and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and helping us to adapt to the impacts of climate change.
This changing narrative could encourage women to pursue careers in technology. Studies have shown women are more drawn to jobs linked to societal improvement, driven by a desire for jobs with purpose. The 2020 LinkedIn Economic data indicates that the top 3 fields of interest for women are Not-for profit (68%), Health & healthcare (61%) and Education (57%).
Climate change is undoubtably one of the greatest challenges our society has faced and has spurred many to take action. Women have been at the forefront of the climate movement and become very visible leaders on the international scene. Women of all walks of life are taking action on their interest in Climate, concerned for their own future, the future of their children, and that of future generations.
There might therefore be an opening to attract women to tech jobs through the urgent and shared demands of climate change and other sustainability issues. By giving women the vision of the potential within tech to deliver long-lasting solutions to our world’s problems, we may break down perceptions of an industry which causes women to turn away.
As a global community striving to rebuild from the pandemic and address shared challenges, there is also an urgent need and real value to consider female empowerment alongside climate change, and to understand what is called for in different parts of our economy when applying this lens. Empowering women to participate and thrive in STEM roles will not only promote gender diversity in given fields; it will help move us all forward in finding innovative and scalable green solutions that work for everyone.
It is therefore key to nurture women to develop an early interest in STEM fields, emboldening women and girls to pursue these subjects, either fully or sufficiently to be able to navigate tech environments comfortably. Increasing awareness of what tomorrow’s job landscape will look like and what this means in terms of career prospects; drawing on women’s interest in social matters to highlight the applications of tech that can drive positive impact; and emphasizing the contribution of tech jobs in addressing the climate crisis and associated social issues, are all actions that can support this goal.
Of course, while changing perceptions and narratives is a good start, much more is needed to attract and retain women in climate and tech roles. Attracting women to these roles is critical because of the outsized benefits for climate action, justice and equality that it can bring. Given these benefits, it is imperative organisations do more to improve women’s participation in climate and tech. We are part of these efforts; at AXA Group Operations, we are promoting women in tech, achieving gender balance in our talent development programs and actively promoting Digital Sustainability to monitor and limit the effects of our digital footprint. We also work at AXA with the Women’s Forum to innovate towards creative climate solutions and elevate industry standards, with an eye towards an inclusive, sustainable future.
General Secretary & CRO at AXA Group Operations
1 The Future of Jobs Report 2020 – The World Economic Forum
2 World Resources Institute (2018) New Climate Economy: Unlocking the inclusive Growth Story of the 21st Century: Accelerating Climate Action in Urgent Times
3 Global Gender Gap Report 2021 | World Economic Forum (weforum.org).
4 Gender Diversity Survey – 2020 Proxy Season Results
5 Women in Digital | Shaping Europe’s digital future (europa.eu)