Diversity in the workplace is important. Everyone knows this. It gives organisations access to a greater range of talent: unrestricting creativity and opening up resources without boundaries. For the public sector particularly, it also helps provide insight into the needs and motivations of all service users, not just a few.
Despite this, women make up just a tiny percentage of those working in technology throughout the UK. This despite the 2011 census revealing that 51% of the UK population is female.
Alarmingly, a 2015 report from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), revealed that just 27% of digital technology professionals were female, a fall from an already low figure of 33% in 2002.
In 2018, PWC undertook research with 2,000 A-Level and university students. Among the findings was how the gender gap in technology starts at school and carries on through every stage of girls’ and women’s lives. Only 27% of female students surveyed said they would consider a career in technology, compared to 61% of males, and only 3% said it was their first choice.
The survey also found a lack of female role models has reinforced the perception that careers in technology simply aren’t for women. In fact, only 22% of students could name a famous female working in the field whereas two thirds could name a well-known man working in the sector. With only 5% of leadership positions in technology being undertaken by women, challenging girls’ reservations is not immediately easy. Furthermore, for those women already working in the sector at every level, opportunities to network and share excellence with peers can be limited.
Nadira Hussain, Socitm’s Director of Leadership Development & Research explains: “When it comes to encouraging more women to look at careers in technology, it’s about demystifying the world of ICT.
“We need to communicate the fact that a career in technology is not just about hardcore coding, there are numerous entry points. Importantly too we must look at the language we use to attract women to technology related roles, and how we recruit. We need to offer flexible, mobile environments that offer work-life balance.”
Nadira adds that it is vital women are offered coaching and mentoring and a network where issues and ideas can be discussed in confidence – something Socitm actively addresses. Additionally, she says, it is important that male colleagues are understanding and supportive.
Socitm is committed to redressing the sector’s gender imbalance and proactively opens up opportunities for women in the sector. For example, the Socitm Women in IT group has been established as a supportive, confidential environment for networking, sharing of ideas and insights. A melting pot of role models, real experiences and refreshing ideas, the group has a collective mission: to promote the importance of women in technology roles – in the public sector and beyond
The next Socitm Women in IT meeting takes place immediately after Share Cambridge on 25th April 2019. The focus of the meeting is ‘Healthy is the new happy’ and everyone, irrespective of gender, is welcome to attend to share excellence, network, exchange personal experiences and listen to our prestigious programme of speakers, including a keynote from Lisa Harrington (from Socitm’s training partner QA ). Lisa will share her professional experiences, including the ups and downs she faced before taking up her board position at BT and her passion for mental health, from running Broadmoor to championing workplace wellbeing. We hope all Share Cambridge delegates will join us for ‘Healthy is the new happy’ and look forward to seeing you there.