Article provided by Tara McGeehan, President, CGI UK

The growing skills shortage in the tech sector is common knowledge.

Last year’s STEM Skills Indicator found a shortfall of more than 173,400 workers and an average of 10 unfilled roles per business. As technology continues to develop and progress, and the demand for automation and digitalisation increases, the sector needs a stream of talented people who are able to keep abreast of developments and refresh their skills to adapt to working with new technologies.

Historically, women have been at the forefront of computing, with famous names like Ada Lovelace and Hedy Lamar, yet today they are an underrepresented group in the broader tech industry, especially in leadership roles. Facebook’s diversity report 2019 reveals that globally across all roles 36.9 per cent of employees are female, compared to 32.6 per cent across senior leadership and only 23 per cent across technical roles. So why aren’t we seeing more women in these roles? A report by Inclusive Boards found that there are several barriers to gender diversity in tech, including gender bias, stereotypes and the impact of motherhood. Entry into the profession is also thwarted at an educational level with fewer women than men opting for STEM related degrees.

Underrepresentation of any kind in the industry is a missed talent opportunity.  IT and technology companies need to take a more creative approach to recruitment to tackle the skills shortage and develop the workforce of the future. Restricting recruitment to one small pool of potential employees, who have followed a traditional path, creates unnecessary limitations.

Broadening the diversity of our leadership teams brings tangible creative outputs, as teams have a wider skillset when considering both commercial solutions and employee experience within a business. It’s a logical conclusion; diverse teams are better able to approach problems with their combined wealth of experience. Diverse teams also better reflect our clients and ultimately end-users in large companies and society in general.

Making tech more accessible

Encouraging more young people, including young women, into careers in tech and IT starts in schools, and organisations need to think about ways to inspire girls to consider a career in this exciting, dynamic industry. One way to give girls a glimpse into the tech sector is running a ‘Bring Your Daughter to Work Day’. However, we shouldn’t only focus on girls who are still in school. There are multiple pathways that lead to a career in technology, and although pursuing an education in a field such as Computer Science is one of them, it is by no means the only way. Tech companies need to support women with curiosity and analytical minds to make career moves into technology.

A career in the technology sector might seem intimidating for those who’ve never worked in it before, so we need to ensure people understand the breadth of opportunities that tech has to offer. One of the best things about technology is that it is always changing, meaning that as long as you are willing to embrace a learning culture, refresh your skills and maintain a problem-solving mindset, there is a career for you. Apprenticeships can be a great way to gain the skills necessary for a career in technology, as well as gaining real industry experience. As well as those who might be looking for an alternative path to university, apprenticeships are also a great way for people who are looking for a career change to move into the sector.

Empowering a diverse team

Retaining talent is just as important as recruitment. Companies need to make their workplace an environment where people want to be, and where they feel they are able to bring their ‘whole selves’ to work. This includes supporting employees with disabilities and health conditions, as well as initiatives such as unconscious bias training, to ensure equality and comfort in the workplace.

Empowering our existing members to upskill and take on more senior roles is also key to ending the skills shortage. This includes encouraging employees to reach their full potential and follow their passions. Depending on the career aspirations or preference of their employees, companies should help individuals make horizontal or vertical moves within the company as their career develops. Shadowing opportunities are a great way to give employees a taste of what other roles within the company involve and empower them to consider more senior roles.

It is important that employees feel that their careers are moving forward as they learn and grow in experience. Supporting those on maternity and parental leave by offering remote training courses and coaching before, during and after leave, contributes to creating a learning culture that enables skilled professionals to progress. In turn, this culture will make our sector attractive to new talent who will recognise the prospects and positive working environment.

In summary, tech companies need to embrace and actively seek out a diverse pool of talent externally and internally, including women, to find problem-solvers and leaders for the future in the ever-evolving technology sector.

Tara McGeehan - Main[1][3]About the author

As President of CGI’s UK operations, Tara leads a team of approximately 6,000 professionals and consultants who bring all of CGI’s end-to-end capabilities and industry and technology expertise to clients across these regions.

A CGI member for more than 17 years, Tara previously served as Senior Vice-President responsible for the North and Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications Business Unit where she developed business across commercial and government industries, including high-profile digital engagements such as the UK smart metering program. With 20 years’ industry experience, Tara has a detailed understanding of these markets and their implications and opportunities for CGI’s clients.