By Thomas Holmes
It dawned on me late last night, after the BBC released the figures of their best-paid stars yesterday (which if you missed, take a look here) how much disparity there is between men and women, even in such an established industry as TV. It's wasn't just the salary levels either, more like the distinct lack of women on the list.
I then realised this goes even further than 'front end TV'. The whole video streaming and broadcasting industry behind it is exceptionally unbalanced. I've personally been recruiting in this industry now for two and a half years, more than enough time to learn the lay of the land. The sad truth is there is a huge lack of women in this industry (both technically and commercially).
Crunching the numbers, I've personally succeeded in recruiting just 5 women in total, a mere 14% of the candidates I've placed. One in Mexico, one in Sweden, one in Germany and two in the UK. Looking wider at the Connected Media Team, in the last two years, it's even lower. Just 10%. These numbers are quite shocking.
Now, I'm of a newer generation that is used to a more equal gender balance. At university, where I studied Molecular Genetics, our cohort was 55% women. Our sister courses (Medical Microbiology, Biochemistry and Biomedical Science was almost a complete 50-50 split). My first graduate job, the women in the firm outnumbered us 2:1. ICP Search is also very balanced, 53% of the organisation are female. Perhaps this is why I find it surprising on how unbalanced the TV industry is.
It's fair to say that our industry is being left behind in comparison to other sister industries (telecommunications for example). It's not objective I know, but compare these two trade shows: IBC and MWC. Just attending these events you'll notice that the gender balance at MWC is significantly better. By no means equal, but better.
Of course, women in tech is still a huge problem in many industries and the percentage of women employed in the high tech sectors are still incredibly low, a quick google search can throw up some interesting infographics highlighting this. However, I cannot help but feel we are lagging even further behind.
What can be done?
This is the million dollar question. The first issue we have is how niche our industry is. Due to the nature of the IPTV/OTT/CDN/VOD industries, it's typically difficult for an individual to cross sectors and join us. This immediately creates a talent shortage at the mid level. Tech vendors and telecom operators often don't have the luxury of taking on more junior individuals to fill these gaps and grow into the role, be it male or female.
Secondly, we are still feeling the shocks in Northen Europe on the distinct lack of Women studying technical degrees or taking apprenticeships in the world of software engineering. There simply isn't enough grassroots programs to encourage young girls to pursue a path in these areas. Some countries buck the trend here, however. Firstly Portugal which has a large number of very talented female engineers (especially in the IPTV/OTT space), thanks to the very good technical universities in the country. The second is Estonia, which is pumping a good level or resources into teaching it's preschool children tech. They are witnessing young girls take a keen interest in the subject, which is great news.
I think there is still a social stigma to women going into coding or technology in my generation, it is significantly less than the previous, of that I have no doubt. But this needs to be addressed from a young age.
From a team and personal perspective, ICP will do all we can to get more women into this space. Over the next few years, I don't expect the percentages of women in our industry to rise significantly. Hopefully, in the future, things will be more balanced!