Helen Wollaston, Chief Executive of the WISE Campaign shares insights on improving women's representation in tech careers
It is ironic that tech, which has the biggest skills shortages, is the bit of STEM where the gender gap is widening. WISE analysis of trends over the past 5 years show that whilst numbers of women choosing to study computing and to work in technology occupations are going up – the number of men choosing tech is rising much more rapidly, meaning the sector is more male-dominated than ever. This is true from the classroom to the boardroom. And yet technology is transforming every sector of the economy, which means organisations in every sector require people with technology skills. The diversity of WISE corporate membership reflects this trend – coming from retail, property, financial services, transport, media and the military as well as more traditional construction, engineering and manufacturing sectors.
If we made a more joined-up, concerted effort to get more women into technology, the benefit would be felt across all sectors, because all sectors need more people with tech skills and there are not nearly enough with the right skills and experience to meet demand. With women making up only 17% of the UK’s tech workforce (compared to 34% in India), there is a clear opportunity here.
WISE members embrace a three-pronged approach to improve the participation of women in technical roles:
- Make the subject relevant to girls by connecting them to young women just like them who are doing something they love using technology
- Offer training to women who didn’t choose technology subjects at school or college but would like the opportunity for a career change
- Re-think recruitment to attract more applicants from women
And of course we mustn’t forget culture – there is little point attracting more women into your organisation if you can’t guarantee they will be treated with respect and given the same career opportunities as their male colleagues. We collated Ten Steps, based on the experiences of our corporate members, as an integrated solution to improve the retention and progression of women in a STEM environment.
There are plenty of examples of practical initiatives organisations have put in place which have dramatically increased the representation of women in technology. They see the benefits not just in terms of accessing a bigger talent pool but in terms of motivation, engagement and innovation across the business – all of which thrive in a diverse, inclusive environment. And of course those with more women in technology roles are likely to have a smaller gender pay gap.