Inspiring women from a young age to pursue careers in the technology sector is one of the industry’s biggest challenges
Not only will diversification help businesses to grow a greater and more varied talent pool, it can also increase innovation.
However, attracting women to tech roles takes more than a boardroom discussion. According to a report from WISE, an organisation which aims to increase the participation, contribution and success of women in the UK’s Scientific, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic (STEM) workforce, there was a 0.3% decrease in women working in the core STEM sector between 2017 and 2018.
Even more astonishing are the findings of PwC UK’s paper, “Women in Tech – Time to close the gender gap”, which revealed some startling statistics:
- Only 3% of British female high school students would choose the technology sector as a career choice. This is due to there being a lack of role models and advice in how to get into the industry.
- Only 16% of females had a career in tech suggested to them compared to 33% of male students.
- Only 27% of British women would pursue a tech career.
It has also been revealed that only 7% of students currently taking Computer Science at A-level are female, and just half of girls who study IT & Tech subjects at school go into a job in the same field.
One firm that is looking to raise the profile of women in their workforce is SimpleClick, a technical agency based in Ipswich. Currently, 38.5% of the SimpleClick workforce are women, and the company is keen to increase this further. The agency is always looking to recruit the best talent, and believes that inspiring women to pursue a tech career is something which starts in the classroom.
Claire Thorpe is SimpleClick’s Director and a STEM Ambassador. She believes that having a female STEM ambassador within an organisation – someone who is actively encouraging women to consider technical roles and sparking interest in these positions – can be hugely advantageous for businesses.
She commented: “It’s astonishing that so few women are pursuing careers in the technology sector.
“This is why I became a STEM ambassador – I truly believe that if we can become role models who young women will want to hear and learn from, we can give them the confidence they need to study STEM through to degree level. Giving them practical advice and showing them first-hand that tech roles for women do exist should help to improve perceptions, and show that tech can be a natural career path after graduating. If we can do this, more women will be inspired to consider careers in the field.”
The lack of gender diversity in the tech sector isn’t a problem that’s gone unnoticed. In April this year, the Department of Education granted £2.4 million of funding to the ‘Gender Balance in Computing’ research project, which will trial a number of schemes aimed at improving girls’ participation in computing.
A total of 15,000 students aged between five and 16 across 550 schools in England will be involved in the trials, which will run from 2019 to 2022. After this date, the interventions will be measured and studied in order to understand how to support more girls to study computer science.
But it isn’t just in the classroom where young women can develop the skills to work in the technology. There are various schemes which aim to encourage women to consider a career in technology such as the BBC’s Step into Tech, and Amazon’s £130,000 annual bursary for female students, numerous apprenticeship schemes and open tours of the company’s offices for children.
However, with all of these fantastic schemes and initiatives it is a wonder why only 15% of British women are in STEM roles, and of those, only 5% are in technology leadership roles. So what are the driving forces which make women second guess whether a career in technology is right for them?
Claire continued: “Currently, the sector is very male-dominated, and it’s important that businesses encourage more women to apply for these roles without them feeling outnumbered or marginalised.
“One of the many reasons that women tend to veer away from tech roles can include work-life balance, particularly if they have a young family. I believe that if businesses encourage flexible working hours and the option to work from home, they will see a more diverse range of candidates apply for positions. It is important for any employer to break down the barriers and start a conversation that evokes positive action.”
Another way which businesses can encourage women to pursue a tech role and a leadership position is recognition through award schemes.
In East Anglia, the DevelopHER awards scheme has gone from strength to strength. Now in its fifth year, the awards take place across Norwich, Cambridge and Ipswich.
It is a great opportunity for businesses to nominate their female counterparts for awards, showcasing an employee’s talents and highlighting their work. It also paves the way for a business to become actively involved with the community which award scheme can create. This year SimpleClick sponsored, judged and presented the award for the apprentice category, giving them the platform to increase brand awareness with potential new recruits.
There are many ways in which businesses can encourage more women to apply for tech roles, and it all begins with communication: break down barriers and apply innovation to your HR processes; incorporate diversity and inclusion into the company’s fundamental values; and provide support for managers to lead change.
SimpleClick’s Director and a STEM Ambassador