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Home » Industry News » Skills Training & Development » Solving the developer skills shortage – Could women be the key?

Solving the developer skills shortage – Could women be the key?

Problem-solving, which is at the heart of coding, can only flourish with a more diverse workforce that brings new ideas to the table, writes Mvelo Hlophe, CEO at Zaio.

The demand for software developers is increasing worldwide, particularly in the technology industry. The scarcity of skilled workers has reached critical levels, with the number of vacancies exceeding 40 million in 2021, according to a report by SaaS company Trienpont International. The U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics projects that by 2030, the shortage of developers worldwide could reach a staggering 85.2 million job vacancies, posing a significant risk to companies internationally and potentially leading to revenue losses exceeding $8.4 trillion.

Given the high stakes, companies must expand their search for talent beyond their traditional sources and be open to investing in and supporting newcomers to the tech industry. This would mean that capable individuals who are not necessarily trained in software development but show strong potential in creative problem-solving, should be given a chance to gain new skills and be guided into coding roles through mentorship.

The tech industry remains predominantly male, as highlighted by a 2022 survey by Statista which found that 91,88% of software developers worldwide are male. Given this imbalance, it should be an absolute no-brainer for companies to actively seek out female candidates in their next hiring cycle. By increasing the representation of women in the developer workforce, tech companies can simultaneously address the skills shortage and work towards fostering a more inclusive environment.

As we commemorate International Women’s Day 2024 with the theme “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”, it presents an ideal opportunity to address the challenges within the tech industry and strive for a more diverse and inclusive workforce. Some tech companies have already taken steps to embrace this change by addressing the common obstacles that aspiring female developers face, which in my opinion are:

Accessibility

When casting the recruitment net far and wide to include women from all backgrounds, the first thing to consider is accessibility. In South Africa, many women either grew up in environments with little to no access to computers or, even if they did, their parents simply steered them down a path that was more aligned with their gender roles.

Therefore at Zaio, we not only offer computer literacy courses as a first step to learning to code, but we also use TikTok-style videos to attract young women into the space. While many young women do not have access to a computer, they often have access to a mobile phone. Once they watch our videos and show an interest in learning to code, they can usually make a plan to borrow a laptop from someone until they have the funds available to purchase one for themselves.

Representation

At Zaio, we effectively boosted our recruitment of female talent by incorporating more inclusive imagery in our marketing campaigns. We also believe that partnering with influential women in the tech industry will inspire and create role models for young women, ultimately fostering a more inclusive and diverse tech community.

Women could play a pivotal role in addressing the developer skills shortage, but this would require tech companies to adapt their recruitment strategies and invest in mentoring aspiring developers to help them upskill and thrive in their new coding roles.

Retention

We have also found that staff retention remains one of the biggest obstacles tech companies face when it comes to incorporating more women into their workforce. Despite their attempts to tackle the disparity in gender representation, the unfortunate reality is that women continue to leave the technology sector at an alarming rate.

It is important to remember that the end goal is not just to recruit female talent but also to retain them. After successfully onboarding and integrating employees into the company, it’s crucial for employers to continue fostering a long-lasting relationship with them.

This means tech companies would have to cultivate an environment that supports women’s success by removing barriers to career advancement, addressing pay gaps, promoting work-life balance, and completely eliminating gender bias and harassment. If companies neglect these issues, their new hires will continue to leave their developer positions and all their recruitment efforts would have been futile.

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