Look at any statistics on women working in STEM related careers and you’ll find the results sobering. One report showed that females make up just 17% of all tech professionals in the UK. Is it any wonder that only 3% of girls would consider technology as their first career choice?

This is not about a lack of female role models, but a lack of awareness. From Ada Lovelace and Marie Curie to Anne Boden and Melanie Perkins, these inspirational women are all around. What we need to do is destigmatize tech for women and crush misconceptions.

It’s not all about coding

One of the biggest myths in tech – alongside the notion that women can’t do it – is that it’s all about coding. We tend to conjure up images of an introverted male developer plugging away at pages of Javascript.

This could not be further from the truth. In fact, thousands of people work in tech but would not consider themselves ‘techy’, taking on roles such as:

  • Project managers
  • Search engine optimists
  • Marketing managers
  • Customer service specialists
  • UX/UI designers
  • …and many more.

It’s not all about social media, either

In a similar vein, another misconception is that tech roles are synonymous with YouTubers or TikTokers. It’s easy to dismiss the younger generation as non-aspirational, wasting their time on social media.

But these roles are just as challenging, from studying user analytics to creating designs, editing videos and learning new software. They’re also hard work – staying ahead of trends and being reactive. Not every young person wants to be an influencer, and that’s understandable when we consider just how much work it really takes.

There’s no traditional path to tech

As a huge advocate of planning, it’s hard to believe that I actually fell into my tech role. It began when I purchased a cleaning company at age 21. I soon identified an untapped market as I struggled with everyday HR.

Pooling my entrepreneurial skills and my husband’s tech background, we developed a new HR software that we then monetised. The lesson here is that there are transferable skills in every part of the business. If you’re an entrepreneur, you have to wear many hats and learn things along the way.

So, does that mean that everybody has to have a computer science degree? Absolutely not. I have a degree in Business and CIPD qualifications in HR and Employment Law. What I also have is the drive and determination to turn ideas into a sustainable business.

Hiring managers aren’t always looking for degrees

One point I would always be keen to push with women in STEM is that there are more options than universities. When we hire at Natural HR, we only look for degrees if there is a specialist role.

In many cases, people can work their way up, just as I did with my cleaning company. Applicants could start in a customer service entry-level role, for example. Before long, they might identify a skillset and work on this to expand into tech.

We must fill the education gap

If we want to bridge the STEM gap for the next generation of women, we need to close the education gap, too. This does not equal going into schools and droning on with girls about programming. Had that happened to me, I would certainly have turned away.

Programming is certainly a high-demand, lucrative role, but it’s not the only one. It’s on us to promote opportunities for women and girls, including:

  • Leveraging social media to educate young women with videos and case studies
  • Highlighting the tech-based roles in non-techy industries, such as SEO for travel
  • Keeping young people abreast of changes in the tech landscape, such as AI
  • Illustrating non-traditional career paths such as working one’s way up from entry level
  • Dispelling the myths that certain roles are dominated by white men, and instead turning to existing female role models in tech.

Promoting role models

I always encourage women to shout about their successes as much as possible. Not only does it validate their skills; it encourages other women to get out of their comfort zone.

I’m a proud advocate of women in STEM and look forward to mentoring more women in the future.

Natural HR was founded by Sarah and Jason Dowzell in 2012. It was acquired by Moorepay back in March 2023. Find out more about Natural HR and the acquisition here.

About the author

Sarah Dowzell began developing her entrepreneurial spirit while trading on the stock market at the age of 18. By 21, she’d purchased her own cleaning company — an experience that saw her hone the skills that would, one day, prove invaluable. However as the company progressed, she found herself bogged down by HR processes. 

Looking to technology, Sarah recognised a gap in the market. Determined to fill it, she instigated a solution via her technology-savvy husband, Jason, who built brand-new software. Having proved helpful for Sarah, the couple shared the programme online for free. But, as utilisation increased, the duo saw an opportunity to monetise the platform — and it’s from here that Natural HR was born. 

Now a wife, mum of two, founder and chief operating officer of Natural HR, Sarah oversees the wider operations of the business while retaining a key role in customer success — a unique selling point for the brand.

Read more articles here.