30/10/2018Women in Tech

Women in tech and science: Why hiring female coders is not an easy task

Tim ClaytonTim Clayton
8 min read
Women in tech and science: Why hiring female coders is not an easy task
DiversitySoftware DevelopmentTechnologyEmployment
Women in tech and science: Why hiring female coders is not an easy task
What’s the main takeaway?
  • Women are still under-represented in STEM subject studies and in technical positions in the workplace
  • Employers who want to achieve gender equality and have more diverse workplaces struggle with a lack of applicants
  • Grass roots initiatives to get females into technology offer the hope for the future.

We have a problem.

Rather than pretend it isn’t there, we want to talk about it.

We are the number one open source Python contributor in Poland, ranked in the top 500 globally, and the creators of the one of the fastest growing open source e-commerce platforms in the world. We pride ourselves on being technical experts and on working in an inclusive and welcoming environment. And yet, the numbers don’t lie: of forty programmers, just four are women. What’s more, all of the technical lead positions in the company are filled by men.

It probably doesn’t look good to the outside observer. These numbers are even lower than data showing that women make up less than 20 percent of U.S. tech jobs, or that women hold 5% of tech leadership positions. There may be geographical factors at play, as we are based in Poland, but the figures still don’t look great. And yet we see ourselves as great supporters of women in tech, even if others might roll their eyes at the suggestion.

What is the case for our defence? In all honesty, it’s not a very complex one. When we advertise positions, we sometimes have one or two female applicants out of fifty responses — sometimes we have none at all. That leaves us with a question of integrity: we want to employ women, but we also want to employ the very best candidate every time. All things being even, the chance that the woman is the best candidate out of fifty applicants is about 2%. Do you choose a female who is perhaps the fifth or fifteenth best applicant just to fill a quota, or choose the best person regardless of sex?


To be clear, hiring a woman because she is the best candidate isn’t positive discrimination; that is just good business sense. And when we talk about the best candidate, that does not always mean the candidate with the most experience or the best qualifications. The right person is the one, regardless of gender, who we see growing and staying with us and bringing value to the things we create. It’s as much about attitude, personality, and ambition as it is about skills on paper.

Thomas Buberl, CEO of AXA, recently announced that “we have decided to reach gender parity in our top 150 global executives by 2023 at the latest.” On the face of it, it’s a noble cause; but does it mean removing experienced men from positions to replace them with women? Is positive discrimination the answer to the problem? We’re not finding fault with AXA’s approach; it just highlights that each business needs to make its own decision about how to handle the gender imbalance and stick to its own principles.

In the case of AXA, they are a global corporation with a massive talent pool to draw from. For us, as a small company, we can only interview and assess the people who are put in front of us. The failure to get more women into technology is not caused by businesses consciously choosing males over females; the problem is with the system that fails to turn young girls who show an interest in coding into women who enter the job market as qualified information technologists.

Girls show an interest in technology at around age eleven but usually move away from it soon after, a fact that is proven by the statistic that only 15.8% of undergraduates in STEM subjects are women. In fact, PISA found that by age 15 boys are ten times more likely to expect an ICT career than girls.

In PwC’s report “The Female Millennial — The New Era of Talent,” researchers found that young women want to work with employers with a strong history of inclusion, diversity, and equality. Many women see the low number of females in tech and simply choose to enter other fields. Essentially, there needs to be a breakthrough with more young girls choosing STEM subjects, so that they can then mentor and inspire the next generation. But creating that first wave of interest to get a really significant number of women established and visible in STEM careers is the major challenge.

The polemicists out there might ask if it actually matters. Tech is working, so why do we need more women working in tech? It is an somewhat unproven theory, but all the evidence points to the fact that any industry that has more gender parity and diversity of ideas and opinions will experience greater growth and success. This does not only mean more women, it means a range of ages, backgrounds, ethnicities, and opinions. Moreover, as we move into the AI era, diversity of ideas becomes essential to eliminating potentially harmful data biases — as explained by Beena Ammanath, VP of AI at Hewlett Packard Enterprise and founder of the non-profit Humans for AI.


So we’ve reached that point: we would like more women, and we even need more women on board, but the pipeline is not producing an even flow of candidates of different genders. We still see ourselves as supporters of the cause of women in tech, not because we employ a great deal of females, but because we are actively engaged in grass-roots organizations and causes that are trying to affect positive change for the future.

We’ve been active supporters and contributors to Django Girls for a number of years. Through mentoring at local events, we’ve seen how weekend workshops can help women of all ages build their first websites and fall in love with coding.

There are also a whole range of other female-focused initiatives around the world aimed at either getting girls into coding or empowering them once they reach the industry. Here are just a few:

  • TechGirlz has run workshops for over 10,000 girls in middle schools in the US since 2010, and aims to double that number by 2020, while Girls Who Code have a network of volunteers running nearly 500 weekly coding clubs for 6th to 12th graders across the US.
  • Technology association CompTIA launched a global tech career directory for girls and women aimed at helping them advance in the industry.
  • Geek Girls Carrots, which started in Poland and how operates globally, has held over 500 events for 12,000 participants since 2011, bringing women in the tech industry together to inspire and assist one another.
  • These grass roots initiatives are also prompting larger organizations to take action, with Sky offering a free 15-week starter-course for women in the UK with no coding experience to get started in a tech career.

We have a problem with the lack of women and other minority voices in our company. It is not the way we want it to be and we are not the only ones. Perhaps it is not something with an easy short-term fix and pretending that it is will not help anyone. However, we really believe that initiatives to help young girls see the value in IT careers will make things better. Is it a five-year prognosis for change? Ten? Fifteen? Nobody knows. But we hope change will come.


For now all we can say is that if you are a woman and you think you would be the best candidate for a role working with Python, Django, GraphQL, React or Javascript, we want to hear from you. Help us make that change and contact us at

Mirumee guides clients through their digital transformation by providing a wide range of services from design and architecture, through business process automation to machine learning. We tailor services to the needs of organizations as diverse as governments and disruptive innovators on the ‘Forbes 30 Under 30’ list. Find out more by visiting our services page.

A note from the writer: I don’t normally feel the need to put disclaimers on what I have written, but I do see the irony in being a man writing about the lack of opportunities for women. Copywriting is a much more equally represented area than technical positions; it just so happens that I am the only writer here but there is generally much more diversity in marketing roles. In writing this article, I spoke to women inside and outside of our company and listened to their feedback during the review. I’m the best choice to write the article, as that is my position in the company, but I believe that my words are endorsed by the women we have on board.

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