encouraging girls in to tech, STEM featured

Inspiring women for a career in engineering

encouraging girls in to tech, STEM

As a female engineer, I am part of a minority group.

A miniscule five per cent of practicing engineers in the UK are women, and only 22 per cent of 16-18-year-old girls say they would consider a career in engineering. In the UK we also have the lowest percentage of female engineering professionals in Europe, while Latvia, Bulgaria and Cyprus lead with nearly 30 per cent each1.

Why is this the case? My theory is by the time a child turns four, it has already been instilled in them which jobs are for men and which are for women, and society inadvertently reinforces these socially constructed identities due to its own lack of understanding and preconceptions.

But when did Britain decide that women should not aspire to be engineers and help to change the world? And worse still, who thought up the ludicrous notion that women would not make good engineers?

The women of Great Britain have already proven that they can be outstanding engineers and run this country single handedly. Just 70 years ago, when the men left to fight in the Second World War, women went into factories and did the work of talented engineers more than competently.

Sadly, at the end of the war when the men returned, everyone went back to their so called “traditional roles”.

The field of engineering loses so many talented women to so-called “caring professions” because they want “to make a difference,” but making a difference is actually the bread and butter of engineering, and in today’s world is vitally important for the future.

The Engineering UK 2019 report reveals that while girls are underrepresented in STEM subjects at both GCSE and A‘Level, they tend to outperform boys in examinations at both levels of study.

This shows women should be engineers!

As we continue to live through difficult financial times, there are many other pressing problems that threaten our quality of life, such as global warming, the depletion of natural resources and challenges to health – to mention just a few. Engineers and scientists are the only people who can halt the destruction of our planet, so what better way to show you care and make a difference than to become an engineer

In 2017, the annual shortfall of the right engineering skills in the UK was between 25,500 (level 3) and up to 60,000 (over level 4 skills). The reality is that we need to at least double the number of UK based university engineering students for the UK to remain a power hub.

In my current role as President and Chief Executive of the New Model in Technology and Engineering (NMITE), we are committed to making engineering more accessible for everyone and are aiming for gender balance in our student body.

We will also be making entry more accessible with students only needing to demonstrate competence of Maths and Physics at GCSE and not A ‘Level.

We want students who want to be creative, to design, work as a team and be part of an exciting future. By working on ‘real-life’ engineering challenges rather than sitting in lectures, our future students will be providing real solutions for our partner companies including Heineken and Avara Foods.

I hope I, as a Professor of Engineering, will inspire a future generation of Amy Johnsons and Caroline Hasletts to help make a difference and change our world.

Elena Rodriguez-FalconAbout the author

Professor Elena Rodriguez-Falcon FIET, PFHEA, FCMI

Professor Elena Rodriguez-Falcon is President and Chief Executive at the New Model Institute for Technology and Engineering. Before that Elena was Professor of Engineering at Sheffield University whilst leading various strategic priorities. Elena has received numerous awards for her work on education and diversity and is Principal Fellow at the HEA and Fellow of the IET and CMI.

 


woman coding on laptop, Code First Girls

More needs to be done to encourage women to join the tech industries

woman coding on laptop, Code First Girls

Professor Nicola Wilkin, Director of Education at the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, University of Birmingham outlines the importance of attracting a greater gender diversity in the technology industry and how businesses and educational institutions can help bridge the gap.

While the number of women working within the technology industry has continued to climb over the past year, there is still a concerning gender imbalance in the industry, magnified even further when we look at representation of women of colour and women from disadvantaged economic backgrounds.

The benefits of a diverse workforce in any industry cannot be overstated, but particularly in STEM sectors where female voices are often underrepresented. Despite a growing awareness of the need to bridge the gender recruitment gap in the tech sector, and a steady rise in women working in the industry (currently 31% in the UK), there is still an alarming absence of women of colour in technology roles. For example, Black women only made up 0.7% of IT positions in 2020, according to a recent BCS’ study based on Office for National Statistics (ONS) employment data.

The startling statistics of inequality don’t stop there. According to the Women Tech Network, 34% of STEM graduates are women but only 5% of tech start-ups are female founded. Furthermore, almost half (46%) of women in the technology sector have reported experiencing sexism and discrimination  first-hand.

Whilst there’s no single route to solving this complex and nuanced issue, we believe that access to education can lay the foundation for real change. PwC research discovered that only 3% of school-age girls wish to pursue a career in tech as their first choice, despite the fact that girls engaging with and thriving in STEM subjects at school is significantly higher.

Lack of prominent female role models and the perception that the industry is unwelcoming for women have been found to be major stumbling blocks that deter women from pursuing their passion or realising their potential. By encouraging both school-aged girls and women looking to change their careers to consider STEM subjects will contribute to challenging stereotypes and inspiring a future generation of female tech professionals.

At the University of Birmingham, we are committed to empowering students, helping them turn ingenuity into reality. In 2019 we launched 24-week part-time intensive Coding and Data Analytics Boot Camps to help mitigate the diversity challenges the industry is currently facing.

Our Boot Camps equip learners with the skills they need to advance their careers. Throughout the course they are given personalised academic and career support. On completion they are awarded a certificate from the University of Birmingham, the prestige of the institution and its reputation for high quality education helping the graduates stand out from the crowd.

Alongside this, we have partnered with the West Midlands Combined Authority Digital Skills Training Fund to offer a ‘Women in Tech’ scholarship which will see eligible applicants receive £4,000 towards their course fees and provided with mentoring and careers support throughout their journey.

Partnering with employers as we tackle the gender gap is also hugely important. We work with some of the world’s leading companies and have helped our alumni secure roles with Gymshark, HSBC and PwC to name a few. A simple, but effective way, for employers to reinforce their commitment to diversity is to showcase their female employees via interviews, case studies and blogs.

We’re actively working to create a more dynamic and diverse workforce in the UK by offering flexible educational models that help our students achieve a learn-life balance. For example, our Boot Camp learners can fit on-campus or online study around their home and employment responsibilities making it ideal for women who want to upskill or change their careers completely to pursue a job in tech.

For more information about the University of Birmingham Boot Camps, please visit: https://bootcamp.birmingham.ac.uk/coding/landing-ab2/


Bringing a fresh perspective to tech

Women codingCarolyn Crandall, Chief Deception Officer at Attivo Networks

At first glance, cybersecurity can seem like a lonely profession for women, with female practitioners almost always greatly outnumbered by their male colleagues.

Research from IBM found that women make up just 11 percent of the security industry; even fewer (as little as one percent) are in a leadership role. Yet, cybersecurity is also an exciting, fast-paced career that can be hugely rewarding for anyone with a passion for technology, regardless of gender.

One myth I can dispel right away is that to get into cybersecurity you first have to be some sort of coding expert. This is not always the case. In cybersecurity, there are many different and important roles to occupy, which rely on a wide range of skills. From product management, risk management, testing, problem solving, sales & marketing to budgeting and more. This industry thrives on its diversity of experience, education, and background.

Learning and experience

A good way to get started is by taking a course, applying for an internship, or an entry-level position to obtain foundational qualifications and certifications. Not only does this allow you to develop your knowledge-base and skill set, it also shows your willingness to learn new things. Even with baseline experience, it’s still important to always continue to learn and stay current on new technology and ways to address modern challenges. I recommend seeking out managers who present opportunities for long-term career progression and understand the importance of providing continuous learning for their employees. For example, with my recent college graduate hires, I have created a learning environment that encourages them to ask questions and try out new things. I also urge them to sign up for training classes and engage with the many training resources that are made available online.

Something else that helps within this space is to stay on top of the latest trends, technologies, and news. Educate yourself about what is going on in the cybersecurity community, so as you continue to develop in your career and in your day-to-day skills on the job, you also maintain a high level understanding of the market and allow it to inform your professional decision-making .Personally, I strive to read any significant security stories in the news. An awareness of what’s going on is essential if you want to stay relevant and ahead of the competition.

Another piece of advice is to try new and different workplaces to experience what it’s like to work for both large and small organizations. A larger company will have well-defined roles that you can learn within and the budget and infrastructure to expose you to a wide range of interesting projects and life lessons. Working for a small business, by contrast, will have less definition to how a role needs to be done, teaches you to take on more responsibility and to make tighter budgets stretch as far as they can go.

Getting the job

In my experience, women are every bit as suited to cybersecurity as men. However, over the years, I’ve also noticed a distinct difference in their approach, especially when it comes to landing a job or career advancement. Men tend to be good at exuding confidence about a role even if they are not entirely qualified. By comparison, women can tend to be more conservative and prefer to successfully master every detail before committing to take on a new responsibility. I would strongly encourage women not to let the lack of a “checked box” hold you back. Hardly is there ever a perfect candidate that can do it all. It’s much more important to present yourself as someone who is very capable and is willing to learn what they don’t know. I will often bet on the “athlete” with a hunger for success over someone who has simply done the job before.

In this industry, you may find yourself going head to head against exceptional individuals with exhaustive security experience or military backgrounds. And, admittedly, it can be very intimidating to compete with or to participate in projects with these seasoned professionals. I encourage you to take a deep breath and believe in your abilities. If you know your stuff, walk the walk, talk the talk, and do it with the swagger that you have earned. Although you may encounter some jerks, you will find most people to be welcoming to women in the field and will appreciate what you bring to the table, both today, as you learn more, and as you grow stronger in your capabilities.

Regardless of where you are in your career, take the time to build a reputation for yourself, internally and externally, as an expert and a recognized authority in your field. This means demonstrating knowledge and experience to your colleagues and sharing insights with industry peers. Blogging, contributing to articles, and commenting on posts can all be excellent ways for establishing a name for yourself. Speaking at conferences can also be a great way to share your insights and for networking purposes.

Encouraging more women into tech

Women entering into cybersecurity with their fresh perspectives have so many things they can offer the industry. A different point of view or approach can be extremely beneficial when it comes to driving innovation, reducing risk, and delivering on a new product or service.

Both men and women need to make sure that women joining cybersecurity don’t end up feeling isolated, unsupported, or alone. We collectively need to create strong support networks and help each other out more. This can be as simple as socializing so that you get to know your female colleagues, mentoring other women, or even joining online groups of like-minded people to learn how they cope with similar circumstances to your own.

The tech industry has a lot to offer women, and women have a lot to offer the tech industry.  By being welcoming and supportive, we can attract incredible talent and be a better workforce to show for it. That’s why I would not hesitate to encourage any women thinking about a career in cybersecurity to go for it.

Carolyn Crandall About the author

Carolyn is a technology executive with over 25 years of experience in building emerging technology markets in security, networking, and storage industries. She has a demonstrated track record of successfully taking companies from pre-IPO through to multi-billion-dollar sales and has held leadership positions at Cisco, Juniper Networks, Nimble Storage, Riverbed, and Seagate. Carolyn is recognized as a global thought leader on technology trends and for building strategies that connect technology with customers to solve difficult information technology challenges. Her current focus is on breach risk mitigation by teaching organizations how to shift from a prevention-based security infrastructure to one of an active security defense based on the adoption of deception-based cyberwarfare.


Women in Tech

Raising the 15 per cent | Encouraging women into tech

women in tech
L-R: Estee Woods, Liz Cook, Lucie Hyve, Crendal Kear, Liz Matthews, Sophia Zheng

International Women’s Day is something that WeAreThe City fully supports.

This year’s theme is #BalanceforBetter, promoting the fact that a balanced world is a better world. However, not all industries are good advocates for gender balance in the workplace. The STEM industry is an example of this – it’s often seen as a being very male-dominated, which can actually discourage women from applying to jobs. In fact, women make up 50 per cent of the UK workforce, but less than 15 per cent in STEM jobs.

With this in mind, WeAreTheCity spoke with eight IT professionals – all of whom are women – to get their thoughts on why gender balance and diversity in the workplace is important, and their advice for other women as to how they can get into the tech industry too.

Breaking through gender barriers in the workplace

One of the biggest hurdles the STEM industry faces is the stereotype that already surrounds it when it comes to gender. As Estee Woods, Director of Public Sector & Public Safety Marketing at Cradlepoint points out, “as a sector devoted to innovation and connectivity, the technology industry is uniquely positioned to help close the gender gap in the workplace. Yet, as recently as 2016, 43 per cent of the 150 highest-earning public companies in Silicon Valley had no female executive officers at all.”

It’s a shame that this has become the norm for STEM, and as Lucie Sadler, Content Manager at Hyve Managed Hosting comments, these “age-old stereotypes about the industry do not reflect the fast-paced, progressive nature of technology, and this needs to change.”

“This year’s theme of #BalanceforBetter reinforces the need for diversity in our industry,” Sadler continues. “IT companies must strive to be fully inclusive, and this change must come from within. Diverse teams work better, bring different perspectives to the table and make employees challenge their own thinking. And that’s a really good thing.”

This notion of diversity is something that Liz Matthews, Head of Community and Education at Mango Solutions agrees with. “Companies are investing in data-driven digital transformation more than ever before and the diversity of roles available in advanced analytics and data science is certainly increasing,” Matthews says.

With this in mind, Liz Cook, People Director at Six Degrees’ advice for the industry, is to make sure that organisations have a “balanced, inclusive workplace that celebrates and enables everyone’s brilliance.” Cook also goes on to mention that it’s important for businesses to “challenge outdated stereotypes and engage people in promoting gender-balance and driving a better working world.”

Encouraging the next generation towards STEM careers 

“I think there are two main reasons women aren’t working in technology – a lack of role models, and the perceived culture in IT,” believes Kate Gawron, Senior Database Consultant at Node4. “Young kids learn their entire world from what they see, ‘girls like pink and unicorns, boys like blue and cars’,” Gawron continues. “By the time girls come to do their GCSEs and commit to a career path it’s too late, they’ve already been convinced that IT isn’t for them.”

Gawron has really hit the nail on the head when it comes to addressing the association of STEM with men. ”I’d never planned to become a Database Administrator,” she shares, “but it turns out I’m more than suited to the job. I believe it’s important to have the confidence in yourself to stick to what is important to you, and more often than not another amazing opportunity will open up.”

This is a subject that Jeannie Barry, Director of Technology Enablement at ConnectWise is also passionate about. “Young girls today need people surrounding them who can help to boost their confidence and inspire them to dream big and follow through on those dreams,” Barry says. “With social media all around us, girls are comparing themselves to other girls, causing a lot of self-doubt and lowering self-worth. We need to make sure we’re constantly providing opportunities to grow their confidence and ensure they are focused on their own journey and not trying to be like someone else.”

Encouraging the next generation into choosing STEM as a career path is something that almost everyone agrees as being the first step in solving this imbalance of gender in the industry. “Tech is very male dominated, which can be overwhelming for women considering careers in the sector,” points out Crendal Kear, VP Sales Operations at Exabeam. “People want to work with others that relate to their experiences and the challenges that they face.”

“At a young age, girls need to see that there are more and more women with successful careers, who balance careers and families,” she continues. “As a society, we must encourage and empower girls to say yes to an opportunity and embrace it.”

Finally, Sophia Zheng, Product Manager at Bitglass shares her experience from school, and the fact that she believes the root of the gender gap in the technology industry to have stemmed from there. “I remember being chosen for a gifted and talented ‘Maths Enrichment’ class, and at one point, I was the only girl,” she says. “At ten years old, I didn’t want to be the only girl in the class and, because of that, I didn’t really want to be there at all. I wasn’t the only girl because the school was trying to push out girls, it was simply about how well you performed in maths class and on standardised testing, and I guess not a lot of girls qualified.”

“I think that if the class had been open to everyone who was interested it would have fostered more growth for a wider range of students,” Zheng concludes. “I think that having the option is better than not having one at all. It could have a long-term impact on seeing more girls interested in STEM subjects from a younger age.”

There’s certainly a long way to go until the gender equality in the STEM industry is balanced, but the awareness that International Women’s Day brings can go a long way towards tackling it. It’s important that businesses are aware of the diversity, and that they do all they can to ensure a balanced working environment.

Source: WeAreTheCity - Information and jobs portal for business women