Getting Women into Tech Roles
Today is International Women’s Day, where there is a call to action to get gender parity, using the #PressforProgress. It is unfortunate that in many industries there is a chasm when it comes to the numbers of men and women in the same role such as in technical roles and technical apprenticeships.
In 2016/17, there were 491,300 Apprenticeship starts in England, of which 54% were women; but most women apprentices are predominantly in the five lowest paid sectors including health and social care, childcare and hairdressing. The number of women recruited to higher paid Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Apprenticeships, is a very meagre, 10% of IT and Telecoms apprentices, and only 4% of Engineering apprentices. As a result, a female apprentice in England earns around £1 less per hour than men. The imbalance in women to men ratio also continues in Higher Education where around 16% of engineering and technology undergraduates in the UK are female.
What does this mean for the IT workforce?
As you can imagine, this gender gap is directly reflected in what we see in the national workforce. The number of women in IT, computing and technical roles is somewhere between 15-17%.
Research clearly shows that companies that are more gender-diverse are more likely to outperform their competitors and have financial returns above the industry average. In short, the lack of gender diversity in these professional fields is not just troubling for us as a society; it could actually be harming our competitive edge as a country within many critical industries.
The Gender Technology Challenge
With so few women going into technical Apprenticeships, the industry is facing a real challenge and there is no simple answer to this. The reasons behind the problem are complex and not within training providers sphere of influence to change, but is symptomatic of wider issues in society of equality and stereotypes. We can have some impact by challenging these both internally and externally.
Most marketing is designed to be inclusive, using imagery to show equality and diversity. However, there needs to be more use of female role models, show-casing women who have been successful in the I.T. sector. We should also be developing case studies to use across all our marketing platforms. We need to show that tech roles are for everyone and that women can bring a new dynamic to the sector.
Of course, when you are recruiting you have target numbers to reach and it is easier to go for the simple wins, but this will not get you female recruits easily. The way we approach recruitment for women needs to change – it is not a one
system fits all. Adverts and job specs need to be adapted to become more interesting and achievable to women. We need to look at where we promote and advertise opportunities. Putting them on tech sites and the National Apprenticeship Service has not worked so far. We need to change what we say, how we say it and where we say it if we want to recruit more women.
Often where we train can say as much as how we train when it comes to making people comfortable. There is no point spending the time and effort getting women apprentices, if we lose them because of the environment in which they work and learn. It is therefore very important to make the atmosphere friendly and inviting.
Encourage an open door policy to get women to come in and see what it is all about, and if you have female tutors this is a great way to show by example an industry where females can build and develop successful careers.
As a training provider, we must actively seek and encourage more women into the digital sector and do our best to enable them to succeed. Only through successful role models will the numbers of women in the sector be increased.