The IFB News Pipe

(The lack of) Women in the Digital Technology Sector

16 March 2017

Digital Gender Gap, IFB Blog

This month, our blog focuses on the workforce behind the digital technology sector and over a series of posts, we’ll be looking at the various gaps in the industry and what’s being done to address them. The first in the series looks at the issue of closing the technology gender gap.

With only an 18% representation of women in digital tech roles in Scotland and a significant increase in the number of unfilled vacancies in this growing sector (Digital Scotland) – it’s about time something was done to close the technology gender gap – and with the likes of high-profile technology and government bodies getting involved, it looks like that might just be the case.

The ‘Tackling the Technology Gender Gap Together’ report, developed and funded by the Digital Scotland Business Excellence Partnership (made up of the Scottish Government, Skills Development Scotland, Scottish Enterprise and ScotlandIS), has identified the key issues that could be the cause of under-representation of women in the workforce and have devised a strategy to increase their participation in digital technology.

These issues arise at all stages of the career and skills path, from interests and aspirations at school and making further education choices, to employment and retention in the sector. The supply of women to the digital technology industry from education is a key issue. Other issues are a lack of awareness of the opportunities available in the industry and the potential effect of negative stereotypes.

Education first

With a relatively low uptake in computing subjects throughout education the gap is evident early on, so to tackle this imbalance, the first step in addressing the gender gap should also start here. More needs to be done to raise awareness of the options available to young girls who are thinking of studying in this field and the career possibilities in technology to give them something to aspire to.

Awareness of opportunities

Creating better connections between education and the digital technology industry will provide young students with real-life examples of where they could be working in the future. This would involve ensuring those in the sector work closely with schools, not just the young girls themselves, but also their teachers and parents to promote the range of job opportunities available. It also means having role models to encourage more women into the sector and allow young girls to envisage themselves in the position of these role models. With 5 of the most powerful people in the UK being women, it’s not hard to find inspirational role models to look up to.

Changing perceptions and misrepresentations

There’s also a need to change the perceptions of those working in digital technology and the misrepresentations that are often seen in the media and on TV shows. Research shows that the way technology careers are portrayed in films and shows like The IT Crowd are felt to be inaccurate and not very positive. This could be a contributing factor to why young school girls aren’t choosing careers in this sector.

Employment and retention in digital tech

The research found also suggests that more needs to be done around the employment and retention of women in the sector, with an indication of certain features related to working in the industry discouraging women from entering employment or being retained. This presents an opportunity for employers to look at what they can do to improve this. According to a study by the Center for Work-Life Policy, 56% of women in computing jobs will leave their positions at the “mid-level” point due to a number of factors.

Tackling the Technology Gender Gap Together

We’ve provided a broad overview of the issues we face as an industry and how together, we can address the technology gender gap and get more women into the sector – but to really get involved and find out more about the steps being taken, Skills Development Scotland’s ‘Tackling the Technology Gender Gap Together’ event in Glasgow on March 29 is a must-attend.

We hope to see you there.

Team IFB

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