The Tech Talent Charter exists to combat the lack of women in in digital and technology roles – just 17% of UK Tech/ICT workers are female and only one in 10 females are currently taking A-level computer studies – as well as ensuring retention of women in STEM industries.
Companies are starting to wake up to this reality, which severely undermines business value and innovation, through initiatives like this and Information Age’s Women in IT Awards.
Recent signatories Rolls Royce, British Heart Foundation, Microsoft, Salesforce, Vodafone and all UK Government departments join the growing list of 200 organisations, including Nominet, Monster.co.uk, HP and Fujitsu, committed to tackling the gender imbalance in the UK’s technology industry.
A lack of women in digital and technology roles is a historical problem that is now hindering the ability of companies to thrive in the era of disruption.
Eleanor Bradley, COO Nominet, said “It’s essential that our tech workforce is diverse and inclusive if we are going to address the digital skills gap and make use of the widest range of talent possible. But how will the female developers, support staff and data scientists of the future recognise a place for themselves in the industry when women are so underrepresented? This is not just a problem for Government or big business; change involves us all pulling together to ensure everyone recognises the tech industry as a place they can belong. For this reason we were keen to support this Tech Talent Charter event – a great way to start the conversation and learn from each other as we work towards a more diverse industry.”
The retention of tech talent, and encouragement of candidates to roles, is essential for the UK to have the skilled tech workforce necessary for a thriving economy – a fact recognised by the DCMS who last year committed government funding to support the development of the Tech Talent Charter.
Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries, Margot James, said: “The Tech Talent Charter is a timely initiative to put the UK at the forefront of tackling the gender imbalance in the tech workforce.”
“It is great to see so many companies showing interest and I hope by encouraging others to join we can galvanise support for the charter so everyone has the opportunity to work in this challenging and exciting field.”
The Tech Talent Charter is a passionate and ambitious organisation that moves away from simply talking about issues to implementing positive action to ensure women play a significant role in the growing UK tech industry.
“Last November we promised to grow our membership, to break outside the London “bubble” and to focus on action over talk to move the dial on diversity in tech,” said Debbie Forster, CEO, Tech Talent Charter.
“We are therefore delighted to have doubled in size since then and to have hosted out first event in Oxford focusing on helping small companies and start-ups to recruit more women into tech roles. We know there are many out there already doing great work and by working with partners like Nominet, this event will help us to continue to connect the dots rather than reinventing the wheel.”
As part of this drive, the Tech Talent Charter is hosting a series of regional events aimed at businesses of all sizes across the UK. These events aim to bring local businesses together to learn, share best practice and solve problems, as well as map what is going on at a regional and local level ensuring that all voices are heard on the issue not just London based large corporations.
The first of these events, sponsored by Nominet – the profit with a purpose company responsible for the UK internet infrastructure – was held in Oxford on 17th April. 30 SME and start-up companies, including Nationwide, Nominet, FDM and Sparta Global, attended and discussed practical solutions to the problems of recruiting women to tech roles, as well as ways to incentivise more women to retrain in tech.
Alexia Papaspyrou, Head of Academy, at Sparta Global, said, “It’s not enough to look for individuals who have a typical profile and a typical story. It’s about accommodating individuals into your hiring process who have alternative narratives. This means thinking creatively and challenging assumptions about how you adapt your hiring to suit people who are not going to be coming to you through a traditional talent pipeline. One of the ways we have done this at Sparta is to work with the tech community via organisations like Codebar and Code First: Girls, who host free coding workshops for underrepresented groups. So far, every time we have run one of these we have ended up hiring someone who was there. There is no way we would have met these individuals through a traditional hiring journey so by changing our hiring narrative we’ve been able to make our roles more accessible to people who don’t fit the cookie-cutter mould.”
Traditional stereotypes of the technology industry have negatively influenced women considering a career in tech or just simply interested in computing at school; from education through to career choice and promotion ambition, the image of the tech industry deterred the majority of women.
“But it’s not just men that have continued to enforce the gender gap,” explains Tara O’Sullivan, chief creative officer at Skillsoft. “Some women, too, feel that men are better suited to certain careers. This is why there are so many programmes concerned with getting girls into tech. But with women still making up a tiny 17% of the UK tech workforce, attention to diversity is still lacking.”
“We need to challenge and eradicate old-fashioned views – held by parents, children, teachers and employers – that girls are less likely to want to be involved in STEM disciplines. In school, coding should be mandatory for everyone; complex problem solving and critical thinking should be part of everyday life. In the workplace, training programmes can help people understand conscious and unconscious bias; both helping people to change the way they think, and call out unfair behaviour.”