Last week at Web Summit, Co-Founder and CEO Paddy Cosgrave announced that at this year’s edition of the event, 44% of attendees were women, vs. 24% 5 years ago. This meant that there were 31,000 female founders, engineers and tech workers who came to Lisbon from across the globe.

It wasn’t only the organisers who were striving for diversity, and in the Women in Tech Lounge, were spreading the word through their Technology Playmaker Awards, recognising and celebrating women making a difference in tech.

We heard from the CEO of that women working in tech across the globe have sadly declined by 25% in the last year, despite our increased presence at the summit. Friday 2nd of November was Equal Pay Day, a symbolic day raising awareness to the gender pay gap, representing the fact that compared to our male counterparts, women are effectively working for free for the rest of the year. It won’t be until 2086 that the pay gap will close. Why? We listened to Gillian Tans, CEO of, and Vera Jourova, EU Commissioner for Justice who shed some light on how we can overcome this.

Vera shared her bewilderment that this gap is still so prominent, and explained that we should look at the sources of this inequality - there are zero reasons for women to work for free for such an extended period, and the root of this inequality is discrimination. ‘We have to enforce the law’. There are still so many gender-based stereotypes that are negatively impacting women, for instance, there are segregated roles where women work in lesser paid areas such as nursing, social services and education, but there’s no reason why these jobs are lesser paid expect for historical biases that need to be eradicated. Women are also more likely to work in the family, but this is unpaid work. In 2018, working parents should be able to split their duties, and this is another cog in the machine of stereotypes that fuel the idea of unbalanced pay. There is still a part of society that thinks it’s okay for women to get less pay. Vera went on to explain that one of the most impactful things that can be done is to raise the self-confidence of women. Men are four times as likely than their female counterparts in the same role to ask for a pay rise, and when women do ask, we typically request 30% less than men do, says Carnegie Mellon University economics professor Linda Babcock, co-author of Women Don’t Ask.

'We need to see more women in role model positions, to encourage more women. We still don’t have enough women in high positions - in tech, there is still only 5% if leader positions filled by women'. Vera Jourova

Gillian explained that it can’t all be down to the individual - ‘companies need to take more ownership. Companies can do a lot to increase women in both technology roles, and also in leadership roles.’ However, whilst this can be a huge contributing factor towards a fairer future in the workplace, it doesn’t start here. If not enough women are making the choices of a technology career back at University, or even High School lever, the companies abilities are limited. ‘Part of the answer lies in earlier stage interventions.’ Gillian went on to explain that once women enter technology, they enjoy the opportunities and benefits they face, and typically stay in the sector for at least 5 years. However, many companies don’t have diversity in their values, and without proper protocols and values in place, it can be alienating for women coming into a vastly male team. ‘Basic training should involve bias and diversity. If companies fix these basic elements, we’ll see great improvement.’

So where do we start? Once people understand that a balanced workforce will benefit the whole company, they will want to implement processes that enable these changes. It’s been proven that ‘companies with more female executives make more money’ for a variety of reasons, including the fact that diversity helps make companies profitable, innovative and respected.

What more do you think can be done to support and encourage women working in tech? Should it start at University level, or should changes be made lower down the education system? Tell us in the comments.

Subscribe to RE•WORK’s Women in AI Podcast to support diversity in the field and learn from global AI experts, or join us at one of our upcoming Women in AI Dinners to meet fellow supporters of the cause. At the Women in AI Dinner in Houston this November 27th, we’ll be joined by the following experts for an evening of networking, wine and a three course meal: Giewee Hammond, Lead Data Scientist, Aramco Services; Rupa Kanchi, Postdoctoral Fellow, MD Anderson Cancer Center; Courtenay Siegfried, Founding Partner, Alice; Margaret Mayer, Vice President of Software Engineering, Capital One.