We may be well and truly into the 21st Century, but we’re still a long way off a balanced representation of genders in all sectors and at all levels.
There’s still a mismatch of women on the board despite the quotas that have been batted around and there are numerous industries that remain male-dominated – technology, engineering and construction to name a few. So how should we go about moving this issue forward?
It’s important to state first and foremost that there are numerous initiatives that are helping to address gender imbalance, TechFuture Girls for example, all of which will continue to encourage more women into roles they might not normally consider. But if we delve deeper into the issue there’s one solution that needs to be added to the mix: more female role models.
My reasoning behind this is based on sound information from the affected audience themselves. As part of our Next Tech Girls campaign – which aims to place 5,000 more females into tech roles by 2020 – I’ve been speaking to girls taking ICT and Computing at GCSE level. What I discovered was certainly eye-opening. Many revealed that they would not choose to continue with a career in tech as they believed that roles in this field require individuals to spend hours sat at a desk reading reams of code. However, this simply is not the case.
I believe that if we are to address the gender imbalance in these historically male-dominated arenas we need to start in the classroom by not only encouraging more girls to study STEM subjects, but also get them passionate about them too. The sheer variety of opportunities that these sectors can open up to females is immense and they need to be aware of these.
If we continue looking at technology, the career potential is incredibly diverse. Every firm nowadays needs some form of tech resource, so whether a pupil is considering a job in fashion, a career in life science or they are undecided as to what they want, technology can really be a foot in the door. Clearly, then part of the education process needs to include an explanation of the fantastic and incredibly varied options a career in tech can bring – not to mention the vast array of fascinating topics that can be studied at school and in college.
In order to do this, schools, tech firms and female role models need to work together to better inspire girls in education by demonstrating just how rewarding a career in tech can be. If we think about how girls – and indeed boys – studying at the moment are inspired, real-life role models are perhaps the most impactful. We were all once – and in many cases still are – influenced by a celebrity or brand name as we learn more about them and its only human nature to mimic others. If we put inspirational female tech talent in front of the next generation of potential employees, at the absolute minimum we’ll be giving girls a more equal footing as they’ll be more aware of their options. But, the ideal outcome would certainly be that we see a whole new raft of females developing a passion for what I believe is a very rewarding career.
The huge number of women that have already joined our Wall of Inspiration is testament to the vast number of females who support this approach. One such individual is Nadine Thomson, UK IT Director for Vue Cinema. A brilliant example of someone who stumbled into the industry having accidently discovered the potential it has for an exciting career, Nadine has gone from strength to strength. Here’s her story:
“I initially went to University to become a Vet. I took computer programming as an elective subject and found it creative and interesting. The Internet and email were new technologies at the time that were gaining popularity and I could see tech was going to change our future. I switched my degree to Computer Science and I have never looked back.”
“I began my IT career in Australia. My first role was data entry and building a database for the Royal Children’s Hospital. I then went on to work in various technical roles before moving into management. I have experience working in a range of industries including Retail & Consumer (Travel, Beverages), Consulting, Education and Financial Services.”
People like Nadine, and the many others behind the campaign, are a real inspiration for future female tech talent and can really help demonstrate the vast array of career opportunities available. With greater collaboration between these individuals, schools and tech firms, I believe we can get more girls passionate about these less ‘female-traditional’ routes of employment and remove the stereotype that technology, and indeed STEM, isn’t for women.
Steve Brown is Director at IT recruitment firm, Empiric and founder of Next Tech Girls