Nearshore software and technology companies are actively pursuing the same gender equality goals as their global counterparts, but there are still educational burdens that are failing the industry’s ambitions in the region – namely, a female lack of interest in STEM.
“The majority of students at universities taking technical degrees continues to be men,” said Fernando Gonzalez, VP of Marketing at Belatrix, a Nearshore software development firm originating from Argentina. “To overcome this, we’re collaborating with high schools and universities is to try and encourage more young people, and particularly women, to get interested in technology, and demonstrate that it can provide a fulfilling career.”
Social and Educational Hurdles
According to a UNESCO study, the gender gap in Latin America and the Caribbean is largely in favor of boys when it comes to mathematics in secondary education. In Latin America, it was also found that 8%-20% of Grade 6 mathematics teachers believed that the subject is easier for boys to learn, and that these lower expectations for girls had an impact on classroom interactions.
Even on social media, UNESCO found that gender stereotypes and negative messages about STEM were prevalent among Latin American users, and often transmitted by girls and young women themselves. Females were more likely than males to post or support posts promoting negative views about STEM subjects, especially mathematics, the report noted.
Global tech giant Accenture told us that traditional subjects, such as mathematics and computer science, see a major drop in enjoyment as girls enter secondary school. The company’s research shows that 50% of the 7- to 11-year-old girls describe these subjects as fun and enjoyable, but this perception falls by 31% and 36%, respectively, in the 11- to 14-year-old group.
“We need to generate more interest in the girls regarding the STEM materials by expanding their perceptions and demonstrating the professional scope that these disciplines can offer,” said Cristina Ramírez, Mexico HR Director at Accenture. “This will not only help us address the lack of skills in science and technology, but also create a more diverse workforce oriented toward gender wage equality.”
Mexican software giant Softtek doesn’t see much gender equality in the regional talent pool either: “Unfortunately, in terms of headcount, it remains similar to previous years, and the tech industry continues to be associated with a majority of men,” said Luis Revilla, Vice President of Human Capital at Softtek. “Within universities, the proportion of women to men in courses associated with technology is maintained at a ratio of about 30 women to 70 men.”
On the other hand, Softtek believes that tech companies tend to be the most inclusive and diverse: “It’s opportunities in this sector where we’ve found greater equality between men and women,” said Revilla.
Regional Female Participation and Wage Gaps
Softtek currently has 2,210 women employed in technical, design, or managerial roles in Latin America and the Caribbean, representing 19% of its workforce.
Breaking that down even further, Softtek employs 266 women in Brazil, 402 in Hispanic South America, 1,508 in Mexico, 1,168 in the US, and 34 women in the corporate department. The company also reported a 14% pay gap between women and men.
Currently, 25% of Belatrix’s workforce are women, but the proportion of women in team leadership roles is higher, at nearly a third. At Belatrix, there is no wage gap between male and female employees.
While not able to share the number of employees at a regional level, Accenture told us that it employs 150,000 women around the world, which is nearly 40% of its total workforce. The company also clarified that any pay gaps are based on knowledge and ability, not on gender.
Nearshore Americas requested the same information from Globant, IBM, and Neoris, but did not receive any feedback by the time of publishing.
On a global scale, women earn an average of US$100 for every US$140 a man earns, according to Accenture. Not only that, but women are much less likely than men to have paid work (50% and 76%, respectively).
This imbalance contributes to a hidden pay gap that increases the economic inequities between men and women, a pay gap that starts as early as university.
Ongoing Initiatives to Reduce the Gender Gap
Despite the educational and social challenges, tech companies with Nearshore operations are making progress with ongoing initiatives to increase gender parity.
Softtek’s President and CEO Blanca Treviño often participates in events related to gender equality, one of which was Forbes Mujeres, where she spoke on the topic of the gender quota debate and the act of creating a good board.
Belatrix also participates in numerous programs to reduce gender disparity and encourage women to take up technical careers. For starters, the company supports female developer communities in the locations it operates around the region. This support is both financial and practical, giving them access to company offices for meetups and events.
“We look to promote female developers in the company and make sure that people see their success,” said Gonzalez. “This is reflected by the higher proportion of women in team leader positions than the overall proportion of women working in the company. In our annual strategy meetings this year we also highlighted the importance of improving the proportion of women as a strategic priority.”
Over the past several years, Accenture has set milestones on the path to gender equality, including growing its percentage of women managing directors to 25% globally by 2020, and growing the percentage of women to 50% by 2025, to create a completely gender balanced workforce.
The company also set a goal to reach 40% of female new hires by 2017, which was achieved in 2016, as well as promoting its largest percentage of women (30%) to the managing director level in 2016.
Looking Ahead to a Future of Gender Equality
In order to step further toward gender equality, educators and parents, as well as companies and technology leaders, must find creative ways to ignite girls and sustain their interest in STEM, from youth to adulthood. Nearshore companies must show them that a STEM education can prepare them to join the workforce of the future and open doors to exciting careers in almost every industry.
With these changes, the pay gap in developed markets could close by 2044, shortening the time to pay parity by 36 years. In developing markets like Latin America, the changes could cut more than 100 years off the time to reach pay parity, achieving it by 2066 instead of 2168, putting the region decades ahead of its projected progression.