Girls in tech, STEM

Article by Debs Barlow, Employment & Opportunities Director

‘It is no great secret that women are disproportionately underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) field. – Amy Nelson, Chair of the TCG PC Client Work Group

“Calling all genders who have strong opinions and like things done in a certain way.”

Stop letting (only) men design and create technology that affects all of us.

To do this we must start at a very early age to stop stereotyping. Wouldn’t it be great if schools talked about technology as ‘a way of thinking’ rather than a subject that you can only do if you are good at Maths, love computers and want to be a software developer?   Sorry for the sweeping statement, but I’m sure you have heard something similar.

A career in technology does not appeal to most girls because it doesn’t immediately capture their creative or organisational talents.  I have tried with my daughters, and they honestly cannot see it and do not want to consider it.  They will say things like ‘I’m not good at Maths’, ‘I don’t want to learn computer languages’, ‘it’s too nerdy’.

I think it is down to businesses to think about how they can attract young women into their technical jobs and apprenticeships and for any women that have crossed over to the other side to bring more girls in.   We need coaches, mentors, and sponsors to give young women power & agency to cross over from thinking about marketing, fashion, music, and other creative sectors into technology. The professional services like banking, accountancy & law are also meeting technology head-on, so we need more girls to combine their aspirations to include technology as part of their career and the ‘way of thinking’ for the future.

At LTSB we run a Digital & Tech programme for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds connecting them with meaningful careers with leading organisations.  We are delighted to say that our young women are finding their way into technology, often with a BTEC Extended Diploma in IT or a STEM subject under their belt but sometimes with much more creative subjects like graphic art or fashion.   There is a selection of Digital & Tech apprenticeships that you can apply for through our programme.   Degree apprenticeships such as Digital & Tech solutions where technology meets business or Digital User Experience where apprentices work on the online journey that customers take when dealing with a business.   We also offer pathways into Data Analytics and Software Development at Level 4.

We are the social mobility partner for the NatWest Group, and they are offering all of these pathways for our candidates and encouraging young women to take up these opportunities. Go to our website for more information.  Listen to  who was one of our successful candidates.

If you are going for an interview, don’t miss out your creative talents.  This is going to be important for technology and how we design it for ‘everyone’ in the future.   Make sure you bring out what makes you special and your unique contribution that would mean so much to the community you come from and who you know the best.

Your CV should include the things that make you ‘get out of bed’, even if that is to see what level you can reach on a game.  Your ability to problem-solve could come from your fascination with gaming & technology.  Don’t leave that out.  If you take your computer apart and are basically your family’s IT support, don’t leave this out.  Make your CV stand out by showing what makes you tick and what your aspirations are.

If you do amazing things on Instagram/Snapchat/Tiktok and if you have an idea that might be the next big social media platform, include that!  If you have 100k followers on Youtube, include that.

If you have been out of the job market for a while and want to return to work, there are so many courses that you can do online.  Lots of companies are offering ‘return to work’ schemes and technology is something you can re-learn or learn for the first time.  Try Salesforce’s Pathfinder course.  There is no age limit!

Climbing the ladder once you are in goes back to the need for coaches, mentors, and sponsors.  Ask for help, never say no when someone chooses you to do something which is out of your comfort zone.  They are probably going to be your sponsor if you say YES!

Apply for jobs in technology and see what happens, don’t leave it out of your life until you really understand how you can contribute and what a difference you could make if you had the opportunity to shape the future.

Debs BarlowAbout the author

Coming from a finance background, Debs worked in the Inter-dealer broker Market for 25 years. She joined LTSB in 2015 and leads the Business Development team. Throughout her career she has maintained high level client relationships and now creates, monitors and maintains employer relationships for LTSB.  Training, recruitment and education play a major part in her role as well as managing placements of apprentices and alumni and ensuring the best chance of completion and progression routes for our young people.  She has been instrumental in the growth of LTSB and is now responsible for the employment, fundraising and partnerships teams who will help take LTSB to the next level.