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Boosting female participation in tech: Make it relevant and experiential

Article by Charity Jennings, Associate Dean of Academy at technology training academy and talent provider, mthree

female leader, women leading the wayAccording to Tech Nation’s most recent data, just 19% of tech workers in the UK are women, and just 22% of directors in the sector are female.

Whilst businesses are now investing in boosting the representation of women across the technology industry, priority is often placed on the importance of female role models and improved education for girls in STEM as the best ways to attract women to start careers in the field.

But is this really enough? And, how else can women who have the right skills and capacity to excel in the sector be encouraged to get involved?

What if the focus of outreach to women for tech roles was on the industry’s potential to solve problems that matter, in particular, problems that matter most to women? There are a host of personal, professional, and social issues that women care about and for which technology can provide the tools for a solution.

Women embrace technology, from smartphones to Pinterest to the Fitbit. These tools help people (including women) solve problems related to staying connected, organising ideas and resources, and tracking health indicators. Technology solves problems large and small every day. This is relevant to women and connects to their experiences.

When technology is relevant to solving a problem, addressing a social issue, or meeting a daily need, women will show up. When technology is integral to women’s experience, they will continue to show up.

So, how can businesses build on the experiential quality in tech, to boost female participation in the sector?

Attempting to demonstrate the value of a career in technology by simply stating to students that studying STEM subjects will lead to a “good job”, or that women should join because it’s a ‘solid career’, will not be a huge enticer. Instead, addressing what is really important to women, showcasing how the career is integral to their experiences and answers the problems and issues that matter to them the most is a better option.

Companies should not only use role models to offer encouragement to female entrants, but also show real-life examples of how their technology directly impacts the lives of women and girls.

For instance, the past year has seen a vast shift to online learning and companies that have worked hard to digitise education by creating and investing in home-learning technology can demonstrate how working on their product has increased access to education for young women across the globe.

Technology and education are key elements in changing lives, for individuals, their families, and future generations. Not only is technology key to solving social issues, but the reach of technology and education also enables support for wide social change. With many technology businesses wanting to increase female participation, encouraging women to see just how integral technology is to improving the female experience could be the catalyst for women choosing to enter the profession or going elsewhere.

Charity JenningsAbout the author

Charity Jennings is Associate Dean of Academy at mThree, designing learning and credentialing strategies for global talent development in information technology, banking and finance. She has over twenty years of experience in educational leadership, curriculum design, and instruction.

 


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