Recent statistics have revealed just how much more there is to do to encourage women into the UK technology sector. The figures make for stark reading.
Currently, only 17% of employees in the UK technology sector are women; only one in six school leavers starting a degree in computer science in 2016 was female and the total number of girls taking either ICT or computer science at GCSE fell by 12% in the same year.
Clearly, steps need to be taken to boost the number of women opting for careers in technology.
Elizabeth Gooch, founder and CEO of AIM-listed tech company eg solutions, pioneered the back office workforce optimisation market; a market that is now worth an estimated $3bn. Having been a leader within the IT sector for thirty years Elizabeth, along with the team of women at eg, believe there are three barriers for girls and women entering the sector at any level.
Elizabeth commented: “We recently asked our ‘Women in IT’ group what barriers there are for women entering the sector and the response was that gender stereotyping remains the primary issue. There is still a perception in schools that boys are better at science and maths and, as a result, young girls are put off STEM subjects. This can also be reinforced at home, where it’s often seen as the man’s job to do the technical stuff.”
“We need to remove these stereotypes and encourage young girls to get involved in technical activities; not just hard sell them on the idea of careers in IT.”
Wilma Gombedza, a “coder” at eg, is leading the charge with the Tech Partnership; visiting schools and colleges to spread the word amongst young girls and women about what a career in IT really involves. She also prefers to undertake coding projects on client site amongst our end users, believing that there is a real need to demystify coding and encourage women to get involved.
>See also: Insider: Women in the technology industry
Tina Kelly, eg’s Testing Manager, also believes there is a lack of awareness of the variety of careers available to women within the IT industry.
“It’s not just about coding. There are so many other exciting jobs in the tech sector such as Project Management, Business Analysis, Solutions Architecture, as well as a myriad of roles in supporting business functions. We are all in tech and big advocates for our industry so we need to educate girls and women as to the variety of careers open to them.”
Gooch added: “The government’s initiative to develop 80,000 coders in the UK may help to address some of the persistent skills crisis in the sector, but it doesn’t properly reflect the demands of the sector. Coders cannot operate in isolation of all the other specialisms required to build a successful industry and, by promoting this discipline alone, without addressing the perception of it as ‘geeky’, it won’t do much to encourage women into the sector either.”
Gooch believes that getting women into IT doesn’t need to be via the coding route, but that they can be encouraged to move into this discipline after experiencing other roles in the tech industry. Jane Gombedza followed her sister, Wilma, into eg; initially joining in the Client Implementation team. Now Jane is planning to go back to University to study cyber security with financial support from the company.
“Wilma and Tina are just two female role models within eg,” Elizabeth continued. “Our Product Manager, the Quality and Compliance team, a number of Client Implementation Consultants and our Support team either are, or contain, women. All set great examples of what women can achieve in IT roles.
“Our first goal was to encourage more young people into the sector as a whole. Therefore we have implemented successful graduate, apprentice and work experience schemes.”
Gooch concludes: “We don’t believe in single sex promotion or quotas, but we can still lead the charge to help young girls and women to see what they are missing in IT.”
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