Women are massively underrepresented in technology jobs, and this is partly the result of far fewer girls than boys studying for science and maths qualifications at school and university. However, this is changing, as organisations work to promote and support women in technology careers, and employers offer women-only routes into the tech jobs market.
The traditional image of a techie – shorthand for a specialist in technology, particularly computers and programming – is of a bespectacled geek sitting behind a laptop, eyes glued to the streams of code in front of him. That image is changing, as technology, an arena largely dominated by men, gradually opens its doors to female gamers, coders, hackers and technophiles.
Women in tech have been held back by a lack of girls doing – and doing well in – the key subjects at school: science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). Even though girls generally do better than boys at school, boys outdo their female classmates in maths, although the genders are starting to even up in science. This has a direct effect on the workplace. Last year, only 14.4% of the UK’s STEM workforce was female, according to Stemettes, an organisation that encourages girls to study STEM subjects by linking them up with women in technology careers, such as programming, software engineering and IT development.
Many women may not be aware of the massive range of jobs in the sector, from building apps to helping the government combat hacking, or they may think they cannot master the skills. Stemettes founder Anne-Marie Imafidon, who graduated from Oxford University with a maths and computer science degree, says it’s time for more women to check out their options.
There are initiatives to recruit more women into technology careers, and make sure employers can dip into a diverse talent pool. Ladies Of Code and Code First: Girls both run events to celebrate and share women’s technological skills with employers and to enable women to meet fellow coders. With so many men in technology positions, the tech jobs market can seem daunting for women embarking on a new career, and women only events offer a safe space.
DevelopHER supports and promotes female developers and women working in tech through breakfast meet-ups and panel events. Ella Roche, a start-up specialist on the board of DevelopHER, says boosting the diversity of a workforce is always beneficial, and emphasises that bringing women on board also brings new ideas.
It’s not just the techies themselves who are getting together to make a difference. Global firms are actively seeking women to fulfil technology roles within their companies, whether they are established in the sector, want a career change, or are starting out. Media giant Sky is running Get into Tech courses to teach women the skills for a career in software development, and it expects some graduates to go on and secure jobs at the company.
Anna Cook directs Women in Leadership at Sky and believes there is an appetite for a tech career among women, even if they missed out on pursuing STEM subjects at school. She says the course does not only teach the core skills needed, but also allows women to gain confidence in the sometimes intimidating tech sector.
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