female leader, women leading the way featured

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.

 


If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTechWomen has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here


How to inspire the next generation of females in tech featured

How to inspire the next generation of females in tech

By Rachel McElroy, chief marketing officer for cloud based resource specialists, Cranford Group.

How to inspire the next generation of females in tech As digital developments continue to diversify the way people work, innovators should be doing the same – and that means giving a voice to a range of tech talent.

There has been much debate concerning women in tech and the role they play, but – even with vast transformations happening daily within the industry – there is still some way to go to ensure that females are seen as leaders and true influencers in the field.

Things are improving yes, but it’s a slow process.

So, why is it taking so long for the sector to open up and embrace the key role that females can play to push tech forwards?

It’s no secret that this has been a male-dominated industry for many years but, as digital developments evolve, organisations must take responsibility and move with the times too. They should also encourage change-makers to feel comfortable enough to enter into the arena in the first place.

It’s an exciting time, so why is tech suffering a skills shortage on such a global scale? Maybe it’s because the talent available feels under-represented and the sector isn’t as inclusive as it should be? And, that’s something all businesses have a duty of care to challenge.

This needn’t be merely a ‘tick box’ exercise either, but rather firms should showcase just how cool tech is, and why people now don’t necessarily need digital qualifications in order to be a success in this field.

Tech firms must evolve across the board

The industry is vastly different to what it was five or 10 years ago – and the modern day workforce is too. Now, employees need to be great collaborators, creative thinkers and effective communicators, because that’s what the sector requires.

And, none of that comes down to gender.

What it does involve though, are soft skills – many of which can often be overlooked by organisations. Yet, having such personable and professional traits is becoming more important to the tech sector as more automation comes into play, and employees are released into meaningful work.

The ability to work in small teams positively – whilst being analytical and learning quickly – is just as important as having digital qualifications, maybe even more so. There is also a requirement for empathy and warmth, as understanding the needs of each team member – and keeping the group motivated – during challenging times is key.

All this has to be communicated by tech businesses, to encourage those job-hunters who may feel overlooked when applying for tech-based roles, particularly those which focus solely on having a computer science degree, for example. Statistics show that on average only 20% of girls at Key Stage 4 take a computer science GCSE and only 17% of the tech workforce is female.

Many people will also remember the Hewlett Packard report some years ago stating that men will apply for a role if they meet just 60% of the criteria, whilst women won’t unless they hit 100%!

Women in tech are vital for the industry’s progress

It’s important to empower talented females to apply for tech roles, and inspire the next generation of digital leaders. And, they absolutely don’t need to be ‘ball-breaking bosses’ in order to do so, they merely need to be dedicated, encouraging, and given the confidence to make a difference.

This industry cannot afford to lose out on more strong female change-makers simply because they haven’t been represented from the get-go. It is the responsibility of all to hold the door open and support the need for diversity across every demographic.

Employing a diverse range of people who focus more on how and why things work in tech – and who have critical soft skills – will help workers feel valued, and part of an inclusive environment.

If not, the sector will continue to roll out machine learning and AI technology with built-in inherent bias that has been developed predominantly by white males – and could prove to be a dangerous notion which will have far reaching effects. Why? Because businesses cannot build digital solutions on top of data that is not representative of all the people that may use it.

There is a sea of change occurring, and it’s up to those in the industry to inspire the next generation of tech leaders and mentors – known for their aptitude, attitude and what they bring to the table, nothing else.

Rachel McElroy,About the author

Rachel McElroy is passionate about a variety of tech topics including digital disruption, tech skills development, agile working, remote working, women in tech, talent on demand, and DevOps. She is currently penning a white paper which will take a comprehensive look at the effects of technology and cloud adoption on the workplace. Covering topics from AI to diversity, and change management to leadership, such contributors to her research include Microsoft, ServiceNow, Alibaba Cloud, Cloud Industry Forum, AutoTrader, Ensono, Cloud Gateway – to name just a few! An eloquent and well-respected industry commentator, Rachel spoke at Cloud Expo Europe in March 2019 and in February, was appointed as a judge at the UK Cloud Awards 2019.