Role models tackling the gender gap – Ninjas need not apply

Evelyn Walker, Chair of the Gender Work Stream for Digital Technologies Skills

by Evelyn Walker, Chair of the Gender Work Stream for Digital Technologies Skills

Apple famously hit the headlines when it launched its health monitoring app. By not involving women in the design of products or services, Apple fundamentally limited not only the capabilities of their product but completely missed half its market.

Research shows that right from the start, language used in tech job adverts, can sometimes be off-putting for women. Evidence has shown that more masculine words are cited and even ninja’ appears regularly.

Gender equality in science, technology, engineering and math’s (STEM) would add over £170million annually to the country’s economy. The digital sector alone is worth £3.9 billion (Source: Digital Skills Group Scotland 2017)

Tech is one of the fastest growing sectors in Scotland and forecasts estimate that we need up to 12,800 new entrants annually to the tech jobs market to maintain that pace of growth.  Addressing the gender gap in Scotland’s technology sector is not just a ‘wouldn’t it be nice if we could’, it is critical if we are to remain globally competitive and forward thinking.

As well as increasing the pool of talent available to employers, encouraging more people into tech will lift the overall skills standard and improve development rates.  The economy and labour market are missing out on the talents, creativity and ideas of a diverse workforce.

And the good news is that, practical help for employers is already available.

Together, The Digital Technology Skills Group and Equate Scotland have developed a best practice guide to support employers to attract, recruit and retain more women in tech jobs. This guide provides all the background information on what an employer needs to do, to take action.

Another initiative promoting greater use of female role models and mentors in schools was launched earlier this year.  The project was part of an action plan developed in response to new research which found that women account for only 18 per cent of those in digital technology roles in Scotland, with the gender gap in the talent pipeline starting at school.

The report from Skills Development Scotland, Tackling the Technology Gender Gap Together, identified female tech role models and mentors as an important means of helping young girls to envisage a future career in the sector.

To have the greatest positive effect the role models need to be inspirational, credible and close enough in age to their audience that young girls can relate to them and their career path.

Role models and mentors are an incredibly valuable way of communicating just how much is possible if young people choose to embark on a computing science or IT related qualification. They can also signpost the range of routes into the industry including digital technology work experience; Foundation, Modern and Graduate Level Apprenticeships; internships and graduate programs.

Positive role models have a significant bearing on the success of women entering the digital technology sector. The support is also important in pushing people through the talent pipeline and giving them the confidence to seek promotions and further opportunities.

As tech evolves and underpins all aspects of our everyday lives, we may not all dream of being Ninjas, but we all have a role to play in helping the tech world welcome and retain more diversity.

To become a role model please visit Our Skills Force for resources and help.  And if you are an employer and want to attract more women into the workforce download the best practice guide and supporting resources from Our Skills Force.