By Lee Murray
On the second Tuesday of October, we celebrate Ada Lovelace Day in honour of the woman who holds the position of the world’s first ever computer programmer.
Encouraging women into technology is an important topic that we talk about a lot at Head Resourcing and in my role as contributor to the Gender Workstream of the Digital Technologies Skills Group – Tackling the Technology Gap Together.
According to ScotlandIS, 90,000 people work in digital technology roles in Scotland, and women account for just 23% of that total. It is estimated that we require a further 12,800 new individuals every year to fill the roles the industry generates, so we should use every opportunity to encourage more women into the sector. A more diverse workforce also helps to create better businesses – through a broader range of ideas, more innovative thinking and greater productivity gains.
Today, Skills Development Scotland published exciting figures showing the number of females joining the technology sector has risen from 18% to 23.4% in the last two years, and has more than doubled in the last eight, rising from 10,300 women working in tech in 2010, to 24,000 in 2018.
While these figures are encouraging and something we should be celebrating, there are further steps we need to take to encourage more women into the industry.
At school level, we need to inspire young females by highlighting the breadth of well-paid career choices on offer. We need to address misconceptions around careers in the sector, utilising relevant role models, mentors and ensuring the curriculum is engaging and industry-relevant. Technology also needs to be cross curricular, appearing in subjects such as sports, science and arts – as it does in the real world.
Employers need to view gender balance as a strategic business issue and look at how best to effect cultural change. There is practical help available, such as best practice guides and cultural training and consultancy. Consideration should be given to flexible working arrangements, transparent and inclusive recruitment practices, mentoring programmes and a far greater emphasis on providing training and support for women returning to the workplace after having a career break.
We are making good progress increasing the numbers of women in the industry, but we must strive to do much more. Let’s identify ways in which we can share best practice and promote further collaboration across the sector to attract and retain females whilst supporting the advancement of women to senior/board level positions.