Statistics show that only 17% of the IT industry is made up of women. That figure won’t come as a surprise to many people, but it does highlight that a large gender gap is still present.
Although I’ve seen slight percentage increases in the number of women in IT, in general we still need more women to get interested in working within the IT industry.
Thinking back to when I was at school, I was always very good at maths and science. I grew up in Connecticut, where I was fortunate to attend an excellent local high school that had very advanced classes in the sciences.
As a result, when applying to university, the field of engineering was very appealing to me. I loved maths and science so a degree in electrical engineering seemed like a logical idea. The degree provided me with plenty of hands-on experience with both hardware and low-level software.
Although I was fortunate enough to go to a great school with excellent science and maths facilities, I fear that many young girls and boys alike are not so lucky. There is so much more that schools could – and I believe should – be doing to educate young girls on the IT and engineering sectors.
Despite the fact that the UK government has taken steps to help by running campaigns to raise awareness in schools and recruit students to tech companies through its STEM (science, technology, rngineering and maths) programme, recent research suggests that children’s parents could be the ones holding their daughters back and creating gender stereotypes in the STEM subjects.
The research, which was carried out by the Institution of Engineering and Technology, found that only 7% of mothers and fathers said they would encourage their daughters to pursue engineering careers.
When parents were asked what kinds of jobs they thought their daughters would like, their responses were heavily weighted towards vocations traditionally seen as female, including education and child care, the arts, healthcare and hair and beauty. When they were asked the same about their sons, parents mentioned IT, sports and engineering.
The UK economy is becoming ever-more focused on IT and needs new graduates that the STEM qualifications provide. Each year the UK is short of 40,000 STEM graduates and the difficulty in recruiting these individuals is witnessed by 95% of graduate employers.
Clearly the government and universities still need to be doing more. At university, in addition to career centres, there should be regular seminars and discussions where students can learn more about specific IT industry opportunities, such as engineering, M2M, security and storage. It’s tough for young students to go out and find all of this information by themselves.
Opportunities for women within M2M and IT engineering
When I was searching for a job, I knew I wanted to work with devices and equipment, so there was a natural tendency to gravitate to the connectivity field. It wasn’t until around seven or eight years ago that I first came across M2M terminology. It started off pretty big in the industrial automation area.
In my experience within the engineering industry, I’ve witnessed the M2M space grow extremely rapidly and predictions say it will be worth $35.16 billion by 2020.
The world is becoming increasingly more connected right in front of our eyes. The way people live is more dependent on technology than ever before. Connectivity has moved from being purely focused on consumer devices like smartphones, to business critical infrastructures and building smart cities.
In the M2M and connectivity industry, we are seeing advancements all the time. Although they won’t be implemented overnight, they are being worked on as we speak.
My advice to girls who are unsure of what career path to follow, or who already have an interest in the IT industry, is to embrace the many opportunities that the IT industry has to offer. In my opinion, there has never been a more exciting, evolving and lucrative career path.
What should they do to get on the ladder? Here’s my four main tips.
1. Get yourself trained
Join a STEM programme or club to help you to select the relevant GCSE, A-level, degree or industry-recognised accreditations required for the area of IT that you’d like to work in.
2. Present your skills and aspiration
Develop a CV that showcases your talents and relevant qualifications, search the job market and apply for exciting and varied roles.
3. Plan ahead
Think strategically about where you would like to see your career path take you and set yourself goals for when you would like to climb each step of the ladder.
4. Go for it
Once you’ve got the right qualifications under your belt, the IT industry is your oyster. Seize the many opportunities it holds and don’t let anything hold you back.
The exciting opportunities within the IT industry offer women many different options. Whether it be working in a tech start-up or an established organisation, both offer plenty of opportunities to shine.
My experience has shown me that an individual is often more visible in a start-up or small company, which offers a greater chance to stand-out and be recognised for their specific contributions.
However, my advice for women to succeed applies to both small and large companies – work smart and hard, be confident, and stay focused on the job and you’re bound to be a success.
Sourced from Doris Mattingly, director of engineering, Lantronix