Catherine McGarry – Executive Director and Chief Operations Officer from digital marketing service provider Localsearch addresses the growing diversity gap in SEO
Search engine optimisation (SEO), the practice of improving the quality and quantity of traffic to your website from organic search engine results, is an incredibly fast growing and constantly evolving area of the tech industry.
With many businesses shifting online with digital transformation, the desire and hunger to achieve the highest possible organic position on Google has become a key investment requiring diverse practitioners of varied skill sets to dive into the industry right now. And yet, the majority of SEO specialists behind this tend to be male.
A 2020 global study by North Star Inbound has revealed a whopping 68.4% of SEOs are male, leaving only 29.3% of those surveyed identifying as female.
In Australia, the ratios were even wider, with 83.3% of SEOs identifying as male and only 16.7% of SEOs identifying as women.
But why is there this significant imbalance? Is the issue deep-rooted in training and upskilling? No data available suggests that technical skills and digital expertise is significantly related to gender.
Localsearch defies the Australian trend with 66% of their SEO team identifying as female. Five of the seven members of our marketing team are female, with 3 of us using SEO daily in our roles. The Localsearch leadership team is 40% female, with the national average sitting at 31.5%.
Where are the women in SEO?
Over the last 40 years, research has shown that the rate of women over the age of 15 in paid employment has risen 71% through Australia. Despite this, we can see time and time again that human nature corrals us in sticking with the familiar.
A study by the American Sociological Review revealed hiring managers are more likely to hire someone culturally similar to themselves. So, with an already dominated male industry (in this case SEO) it may unfortunately be a case for gender-bias in these fields. This is evident across a plethora of industries and businesses with women shown to be 45% more likely to leave a role within a year than men, with their key reasons being attributed to ‘Macho culture’, isolation and lack of effective sponsors or support. Despite these setbacks, the technology industry continues to press forward as they attempt to bridge the diversity gap.
The recent announcement around the 2020 Australian Federal Budget has highlighted women made up the majority of people who lost their jobs due to COVID-19. In response, a $25.1 million package has been designed to rectify this with activity going towards new cadetships and apprenticeships for women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and other male-dominated industries. This opportunity to upskill across new vocations could be the key to unlocking diversity across the tech and STEM industries.
How can businesses encourage more diversity in SEO and where do I start?
Employers must take a stand for gender-stigma in their business culture. At Localsearch, we have implemented a number of key practices to best help encourage diversity not just in the SEO field, but within the wider tech industry. We encourage other businesses to openly celebrate their people, and begin seeing diversity across tech-roles as the norm.
Those involved in the hiring process at Localsearch will prioritise personality, existing skills and cultural fit to ensure all employees feel comfortable, safe and respected. Businesses often overlook talent right under their noses and neglect their own staff when it comes to hiring or promoting from within, a concept that actively challenges the Glass Door Effect that comes with digital industries.
In terms of starting in SEO, or any digital role for that matter my advice would be to make a start today.
By taking advantage of resources available online, constant upskilling and training, and reaching out to like minded people already working in the field, you can truly begin to carve out a career for yourself and challenge the status quo
The search for more women in SEO continues, but help is sometimes only a click away.
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