Woman in computing, woman in technology sitting at table working

According to the latest release of “Education and training statistics for the UK” from the Department for Education, there remains a significant gender divide concerning higher education students enrolling in Computing and related IT-focused subjects.

The latest figures revealed that there were 126,393 male students enrolling as opposed to 33,435 female students, at a ratio of nearly 4:1 – evidently a massive disparity between the two, despite recent efforts over the last few years to bring these numbers more into balance. We, therefore, sat down with a number of learning providers to ask them what their potential solutions would be for encouraging more female learners to consider computing as a viable career path.

The importance of role models

Lauren WakelingLauren Wakeling, UK Manager at CoursesOnline, calls attention to the historical side of these statistics and how many women and girls don’t visualise themselves within a computing-centric role. She argues that “when one thinks about the big names in the computing sphere, your mind inevitably thinks of those such as Tim Berners-Lee and Bill Gates, and there’s a real lack of female names that unfortunately spring to mind. Those who have done their research will know the immense contributions made by figures such as Grace Hopper and Radia Pearlman, but these aren’t, unfortunately, household names.

Therefore more needs to be done early on at school level to educate youngsters about the achievements made by women within the computing field to dispel the myth of computing being a “boys only” industry. I think that having women who currently work in various IT roles coming into schools to share their experiences would be really valuable and show that just because this is how things are at the minute, doesn’t mean that they have to be this way forever more.”

Closing the gender pay gap

Devin Blewitt, Chief Information Officer at ITonlinelearning highlights the issue of women in computing and tech subjects being unfairly treated in terms of pay when compared to their male counterparts. In his words, “the discrepancies between male and female pay are a long-standing and unavoidable issue for businesses across IT and tech, who really have to make a lot of changes if they want to attract the best talent. I recall reading a piece that estimated that women in these spheres have to work around an extra three months to equal what their male colleagues in the same role would make in a year, which is, of course, unacceptable. Businesses need to urgently take a look at how pay is handed out right the way through their ranks and make any needed adjustments to ensure parity straight away. Otherwise, they risk turning yet another generation of young women away.”

The importance of knowing what’s out there

Something which doesn’t get enough attention when it comes to developing future female members of the IT community is the methods with which career paths are promoted to women. Such is the view of Samantha Rutter, Co-founder, and CEO of the Open Study College, who makes the case that “there’s not enough information, courses or support out there to help those interested to make an informed decision.”

She goes on to say, “There are a myriad of computing and tech-related careers. They’re wide-ranging, creative, lucrative, and constantly evolving, but how frequently are these roles promoted to women and girls in particular? That’s why communities that fill this niche are so vital, such as Women in High Performance Computing and Black Women In Tech, as here, women can learn about roles that they haven’t otherwise been exposed to that they stereotypically aren’t seen as interested in. These are also wonderful forums for conversations to be had with women who have had similar experiences and I would really recommend for any women considering a computing or IT career, to seek out groups like these as your first port of call”.