Laura Herbert

There’s a long way to go before we can ensure that the wonderful world of tech is a compelling enough place in which women can feel comfortable, writes Laura Herbert, Chief People Officer, Apadmi.

There needs to be a fundamental shift in the educational priorities of this country if we are to see more women in STEM-related subjects. Their presence in all things tech needs to start at the very first hurdle, before they have even started school.

According to university admissions service UCAS, in September 2022 6,450 female freshers began computer science courses at academic institutions up and down the land. This was up a whopping 23% on the previous year’s number. 

Should we be celebrating this growth? Unquestionably. But those celebrations become more than a touch muted when considering that 27,735 men – more than 300% the number of women – started the same courses. 

The tech sector will face problems in years to come if this gender imbalance is not rectified and it’s why we need to get young girls interested in STEM at the same kinds of young ages as when boys’ opinions on the subject are formed. From there, girls with burgeoning interests in tech can also be nurtured and moulded into the pioneers of the future. 

Degree in Computer Science or Mathematics not required

But even if an interest in tech isn’t piqued early on in a girl’s life, it’s no barrier to a role in tech. I’m living proof of that, as it’s fair to say there wasn’t much focus on it on my university course when I completed my Masters degree in History. 

Companies are also making considerable efforts to attract women to the tech space. Apprenticeships and graduate schemes rub shoulders with policies which make it easier for women to return to or develop a career in tech after childbirth. For example, our maternity pay here at Apadmi is six months’ full pay to support women and their families during this important transition.

We also offer professional certifications in agile working to every single employee in the business, regardless of gender or business unit, as a focus on the person’s growth, learning and development. 

Steer your career with a mentor

We also encourage mentoring that doesn’t have women cheering women as its sole preserve. Men are encouraged to beat the drum for all their colleagues too as the ‘attract, train and retain’ model continues to be a big focus while we provide everyone with the skills to work in a modern tech business. 

The shortage in female tech talent means that, as an industry, the tech sector is missing out on the resilience and diversity of thought and clarity that women bring with them. We’re playing our part in trying to address this by using tools which can neutralise some of the gender bias that might otherwise creep into our job adverts. We’ve seen from psychological studies how women might talk themselves out of applying for a job based on the role profile; we want to talk them back into getting that application sent off. 

Celebrating equity every day of the year, not just on IWD

Equity recognises that each person has different circumstances, and allocated the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome. If any business, not even one in tech, can’t offer diversity of thought then it has failed as a commercial entity, as equity gives the viewpoint to challenge and be reflective of the communities in which they work.

Tech companies can embrace equity by again focusing on all children and giving them fair and equal access to technology and the opportunities that it opens up. This is where the socioeconomic imbalance comes to be just as important as its gender counterpart; being visible role models in a community such as Apadmi in Salford helps us move the needle and influence our local area by being a real force of nature.

While this is undoubtedly important we highlight this on 364 days of the year, it’s vital that we also highlight it today.