Published on in Digital Transformation

Does technology have an image problem? Figures out today show that only a quarter of people working in the sector are women – which would indicate that it just might.

The findings, from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), show the proportion of women has fallen from 33% in 2002 to a lowly 26% now. This is a long way below the UK average of 47% – numbers which are extremely disappointing.

And all of this comes at a time when we are experiencing a boom in technology, with skilled staff in high demand. The research points towards a large number of vacancies in the sector, but high-level roles such as programmers and web developers remaining unfilled.

So where are all the women?

The number of women joining IT in the last ten years has been incredibly low, and these figures reinforce this downward trend.

The reality is, everybody is much better informed about the career choices at a school and college level. This means career routes which people never even though existed are attracting more than ever before. Being entrepreneurial, feeling like you’re able to make a difference, and the freedom to be creative, are all attractive qualities drawing people down new career paths.

These are all qualities which exist in IT, but yet the number of women joining is falling. IT simply isn’t getting the message across.

For me, technology is a fantastic sector to work in. We work on the cutting edge of how the world is changing, in a job which is different and exciting every single day. The challenge is how do you bring that to life more for girls?

If teachers and lecturers have little or no exposure to the industry, it makes it very difficult to convey these benefits to students.

With this, there is a risk the industry as a whole ends up with fewer and fewer female role models, and it becomes even less attractive as a career path for women. It’s a Catch 22 situation.

It’s often quoted that you need role models at top of organisations, but in my opinion you actually need them at all levels.

If fewer women are going into the system, there will be fewer to share the stories of their success, creating this negative downward spiral we are experiencing now.

Technology needs to be recognised as a great career for anyone, changing the persona of it being a dry environment when actually dynamic and exciting. This requires a joined up approach from central Government, from big businesses like ourselves, and at an educational level.

People also need to recognise that a technology career is location agnostic. More often than not,  you can work from anywhere.

However, I don’t believe a quota system should be introduced – similar to what we see in boardrooms on the FTSE. I’m really against quotas – its important people are awarded jobs based on merit, rather than just someone ticking a box.

Digital and technology is pervasive, and it is a sector always going to require new talent. The UKCES study found the industry could need as many as 1.2m people to fill jobs in the sector by 2022. This is only going to be possible if this image problem is resolved.

You can also view this blog on the UKCES website here.

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Helen Lamb

Executive Director, Managed Infrastructure Services at Fujitsu

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