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Fiction is far from reality: The tech industry gender gap

Fictional women working in the ICT sector outnumber their real-world counterparts more than twice. A recent study shows that 42.7% of fictional characters with ICT jobs are women, when in reality women make up just around 20% of the industry. Women in tech are often portrayed as stereotypes that can be deterring for those who do not identify with them. To address the issue and show real-life examples of women in tech, Nordic ICT-company TietoEVRY published a campaign that shows just how important representation is.

An extensive study published by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media found that films and TV shows are still far more likely to show men in STEM roles, with over two thirds of STEM characters being men. But while this gender gap also exists in fictional computer professionals, it is nowhere nearly as bad as in real life.

‘The challenge is real when it comes to gender balance in STEM industries. When fewer girls see themselves pursuing a career in a male-dominated field we are faced with an immense loss of potential talent. When girls see role models of real working STEM professionals, it is easier for them to identify with them – and also to serve the diverse users of digital services, tech companies need to broaden their competence base by combining tech, behavioral sciences and design capabilities. And that’s what we want to draw attention to with our campaign,’ says Kia Haring, Head of Communications and Sustainability at TietoEVRY.

While representation is important and fictional examples are known to inspire real life career choices, it is also important to look at how women are represented in fiction. Films and TV shows often portray women in tech through well-worn stereotypes, which can create a skewed image of the industry and be off-putting for many girls and young women, who as a result are less likely to seek out STEM degrees and jobs. This is why TietoEVRY, a Nordic ICT-company, decided to launch a campaign that brings fiction into reality by breaking women out of these stereotypes and into the workplace.

The campaign is a part of TietoEVRY’s efforts of achieving a 50/50 gender split in their workforce by 2030. The company has previously revisited its recruitment ads for biased language, increasing the number of female applicants by 32% in male-dominated jobs. They are also running a program of bias recognition training and identifying both male and female successors for leadership positions. The company will also increase development and mentoring initiatives for female leaders and expand the implementation of an anonymous gamified recruitment process.

Bringing fiction to reality with references to fictional female characters

The Fiction to Reality campaign consists of three sets of ads that combine references to stereotypical female tech characters to real-life role models. The goal of the campaign is to draw attention to the lack of representation of women in the tech sector and the importance of relatable representation of female tech professionals. Creative partner behind the campaign is advertising agency TBWA\Helsinki.

‘Seeing so many fictional women working within ICT, we were surprised to see the numbers lagging so far behind in reality. To close the gender gap between reality and fiction, young women need relatable role models to encourage them to join the industry. Representation, of course, isn’t the only hurdle in this. It takes consistent work from companies like TietoEVRY to increase the number of women working in tech,’ explains Maria Kuorikoski, Senior Creative from TBWA\Helsinki.

The campaign will run for 10 days around the SuomiAreena 2021 event in Helsinki on digital outdoor and social media (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter).

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