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How Ireland is improving gender diversity in its technology industry

By Laoise McCluskey –VP Europe Content, Consumer & Business Services at IDA Ireland

group of young multiethnic diverse people gesture hand high five, laughing and smiling together in brainstorm meeting at office, company cultureTackling the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) industries has received international focus in recent years.

In February 2021, Secretary-General António Guterres, UN Chief, announced: “Advancing gender equality in science and technology is essential for building a better future.” In Ireland, this issue is proactively being addressed.

With one of the highest numbers of software developers per one million inhabitants in Europe, Ireland has one of the highest levels of female representation. According to the European State of Tech Report 2020, 32 percent of software developers in Ireland are women compared to an average of 30 percent in Europe. This is a promising figure that will hopefully increase and be reflected in other areas of industry thanks to Ireland’s Minister for Education and Skills’ plans to make Ireland best in Europe in STEM by 2026 and to increase by 40% the number of females taking STEM subjects for Leaving Certificate.

In addition to government plans and funding, Ireland boasts several initiatives aimed at inspiring women to pursue STEM subjects in an engaging way, encourage them to remain working in industry, return after time off and help them progress to senior levels.

Attracting female talent

In Ireland, the government, industry and academia are interlinked in a collaborative environment.  Across the country, academic institutions are eager to produce graduates with the skills and calibre that industry needs to increase their students’ employability and industry readiness. In that context, Universities and Institutes of Technology in Ireland regularly engage with industry on syllabus content. Viewing technology as a pivotal area for economic growth, the government continually analyses the future of industry and ensures education can fulfil industry requirements too – Ireland’s first master’s course in AI was created in response to demand for AI skills.

This collaborative effort linking education and industry in Ireland extends to encouraging girls to study STEM subjects and empowering them to pursue scientific careers. By involving children and young adults in an engaging, welcoming way, Ireland’s numerous initiatives – including free coding and computer science workshops, women in STEM careers events and investigating the science behind global facts and issues – can help to open girls’ minds towards studying sciences at an advanced level. These programmes help young women to develop the self-belief that they can succeed in science or technology careers, so that they don’t close doors for themselves at such an early age.

Supporting women from non-scientific backgrounds who want to make the move into technology, is also critical. After all, if we have to wait for today’s teenagers to study and move up through the ranks to senior leadership, it will take much longer for the gender gap to close. Ireland offers excellent opportunities for professional women to upskill and cross-skill through Skillnet Ireland, Springboard and other programmes, in multiple areas relevant to technology. Combining both new and existing soft skills they have honed during their careers to date makes for a compelling competitor.

Retaining talent

After women have studied, developed skills throughout their career in the technology industry, how do you ensure they progress in their career or are able to return and develop following a gap in employment? So often, women only advance their careers to a certain point due to a variety of reasons including the opportunity to progress and care-giving commitments.

These issues come down in part to having an enabling leadership and culture. Leadership teams that aren’t representative of a current or future workforce, in the context of diversity, is unlikely to recognise all the challenges and supports needed to enable ongoing participation and progression – for example flexible hours, remote working, training and benefits. To attract and retain female talent in technology, increased promotion of women into leadership roles is needed so that women have appropriate representation, a supportive female culture and role models to pave the way for them to succeed.

The 30% Club Ireland, is helping this issue by promoting women’s representation in senior management and supporting female talent with a selection of programmes. Women Mean Business is another organisation that celebrates and publicises female entrepreneurs and businesswomen, connecting women and recognising their contribution to the Irish economy and society. While TechLifeIreland annually highlights female founders and investment into female led start-ups in Ireland – this year crossing the target of €100m in a single year.

It’s also important that women receive the support they need via mentoring to elevate their own careers. Ireland offers some excellent networking and mentoring opportunities for women working in technology, in addition to further training and returner programmes. Women ReBoot and Women Returners are brilliant examples of the initiatives available in Ireland that help develop women’s skills, competence and confidence to re-engage with technology businesses after a career break.

Towards a gender diverse future

Leadership is a key enabler to change, and organisational leadership should reflect its teammates, the communities in which it operates, and the customers they aim to serve and win. Everyone has a responsibility to strive for a more inclusive society and working environment. There is still a lot of progress that needs to be made to improve gender diversity, but with its multi-pronged approach to supporting businesswomen in STEM, Ireland is on the right course to supporting greater diversity and setting the right example.

About the author

Laoise McCluskeyLaoise is VP Europe & UK in IDA Ireland’s Content Consumer and Business Services Division.  IDA is the Irish government’s inward investment promotion agency with responsibility for attracting and developing foreign investment into Ireland. As VP for Europe & UK, Laoise oversees a client portfolio of more than 60 international companies with operations in Ireland; and has responsibility for driving new business development across the region. Prior to assuming her current role in January 2016, Laoise spent over 6 years managing corporate client relationships with key strategic IDA clients in technology, digital media & games from West Coast, US. Prior to that, Laoise spent 3 years managing key relationship with global business services clients.

 


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Four tips to help women progress within the technology industry

By Patricia Hume, CEO of Canvas GFX

Women working with computer for design and coding programOver the last couple of years the UK technology industry has enjoyed significant growth, with Britain becoming Europe’s top scaling tech nation, and improving its global standing.  

Impressive as that clearly is, research suggests that the UK tech sector still has some way to go in overcoming inequality. A survey by WISE shows that the number of women in the tech sector has hardly changed over the past ten years despite an industry-wide push. Meanwhile women account for only 16% of managers globally in the information technology industry and, at the highest levels, only 20% of CFOs and 3% of CEOs.

Over the 40 years I’ve worked in the tech sector, there has been a great deal of positive change - but it hasn’t always been easy. I’ve had to challenge many preconceptions and fight for every opportunity in order to progress. With International Women’s Day (IWD) having taken place this month, here are four tips to help women progress within the technology sector.

1) Network

Networking is so important to progress within the industry and we all need to do more of it; crossing boundaries, uniting interests, understanding cultures, and building businesses. There is huge opportunity in developing networks that empower and enable; 1+1 can equal 3. We have much to learn from each other and we can provide more value than we know with a simple connection.

2) Get a mentor

Regardless of your field, having a mentor is one of the most effective means of supporting your own development. Working with someone who has experience within the industry, and can offer support and advice when needed, will help you navigate all manner of challenges. It is impossible to teach yourself everything and none of us have all the answers. Institutions – such as Women in Tech - run mentorship programs matching mentees with mentors from all backgrounds in technology.

3) Accept and embrace failure

Fear of failure can destroy opportunities. And while it can often be frustrating or unpleasant when things go wrong you have to remember the old adage about failure being the path to success. It’s how we learn, and improve, and perfect products and processes. Accept that it is going to happen and try to focus on the lessons learned rather than the frustrations.

4) Be opportunity-focused 

It can be too easy to take a defensive view of potential competitors - both outside and inside the organization. Try, wherever possible, to look for the opportunities in a relationship between organizations, departments, and individuals. Start conversations, stay open-minded. You will almost always learn something from talking to others about their aims and challenges. And you’ll almost likely always discover something in common - which can only help with the drive for greater equality.

It’s an exciting time to be part of the technology industry, partly because of the work there is to be done in addressing inequality. I believe that with every passing day we are moving closer to true parity, to a time when everyone has the same opportunity to learn, to succeed, to fail, and to get back up again and keep trying.

About the author

Patricia HumePatricia Hume is a dynamic and energetic executive with 35 years of experience in the high technology sector. She brings a wealth of cross-functional experience along with a strong operational background. Patricia’s expertise is turn around and growth. Coupling strategic vision with operational execution she has demonstrated a successful track record across large and microcap organizations. She is a strong sales, marketing, and business development leader who has experience in all global markets.

In addition to Wisdom, Patricia has been named CEO of Canvas GFX. Canvas software is used by people to document and share complex objects and systems. Some of the largest companies in the aerospace, defense, and manufacturing markets use Canvas as an integral part of their documentation workflow.


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More Women in Technology | 'Make it Happen' Computer Programming Bootcamp from Makers Academy

 

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Makers Academy is a fully immersive, 12 week computer programming bootcamp. It's like Oxbridge meets the Royal Marines, but for people who want to learn to code, and is designed to turn people with no knowledge of web-development into job-ready junior developers in just 12 weeks. We’re Europe’s #1 Developer Bootcamp, running a new class of 25 highly selected students every 6 weeks.

WomeninTech - Makers AcademyThis years theme for International Women’s day is “Make it Happen”. Many women feel the technology industry is not for them. The technology industry is deemed a mans world and sadly only 17% of the technology industry workforce is female but we at Makers are doing everything we can to reverse the industry trend by offering £500 off course fees to women enrolling onto our programming course.  Our September cohort had the highest ever at 43%.

It will be a 3 month rollercoaster but an investment that will pay off whether you want to become a junior developer or entrepreneur.

The women we attract come from a variety of backgrounds.  We get the creative types like Sroop Sunar an illustrator and graphic designer by trade who originally only came on the course to refresh her skillset but went on to land a junior developer role at New Bamboo four weeks after graduation.  Sroop explains “My life has turned around since graduation. I got a full stack role at a brilliant agency with an amazing work culture and philosophy that is very much in line with Makers Academy's.  I have a job that I love with clear focus, direction and endless possibilities.”

Then we have Sarah Young who trained as a historian in gender, education and technology who now works as a Junior Developer at Deloitte Digital. One of the biggest hurdles she had to overcome before becoming a developer was believing it was possible, believing she could do it.  Coming from a background in the humanities and never being ‘good’ at science/maths she always assumed her lack of experience would prevent her from pursuing software engineering as a career option so she never did it until she came to Makers Academy she goes on to explain how “coding is like craft-making, figuring out puzzles, even experimenting in the kitchen - activities
 I enjoy doing but would never have thought could
be related to software engineering. It requires team-work, imaginative thinking, and curiosity. It’s language-learning, problem-solving, communication all in one and I love it so applying to Makers was one of the best decisions of my life.”

The technology industry is deemed a mans world and sadly only 17% of the technology industry workforce is female but we at Makers are doing everything we can to reverse the industry trend

Makers Academy - Learn to code event imageWhat about women who took a career break to have children and want to enter an exciting industry? We’ve also had awesome tech mums come onto the course. Margo was one of them transitioning from a stay at home parent to setting herself up as a junior developer. She initially used online tutorials and then came onto the course to immerse herself fully. After graduation Margo went onto work at Mint Digital and now works at Marks and Spencer’s Labs.

All these women made it happen but not everyone wants a career switch. Women are heavy consumers of technology and have several ideas they would like to launch but do not have the technical skills for. Karin is one our graduates who worked as a MD in a translation agency and had a radical idea to transform that industry but by going through the course she was able to gain technical skills she said“I am better equipped to make some initial technology decisions myself and am empowered to start building something without depending on others. I am now able to build a MVP to show to potential co-founders which makes my venture a more attractive proposition”

It is time to stop thinking and “Make it Happen” regardless of your career background, you can be part of the technology industry and increase female representation by learning to code. We have a great curriculum and coaches that will push you to learn to code in an immersive environment near the Silicon roundabout in London. It will be a 3 month rollercoaster but an investment that will pay off whether you want to become a junior developer or entrepreneur. So put in an application now

The Makers Academy Course comes with a £500 discount if you’re a woman. It takes 12 weeks of study, is full time and based in London. New cohort starts every 6 weeks. For more information, visit www.MakersAcademy.com

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