The new chair of a group aimed at tackling the gender imbalance in Scotland’s tech sector says cross-sector collaboration is needed to encourage more women into the male-dominated industry.

Sarah McLaughlin, vice president marketing at Edinburgh-based space technology scale up, R3-IoT, is heading up the ‘gender diversity workstream’ of Scotland’s Digital Economy Skills Group.

The group is a partnership of a broad range of technology and public sector representatives supporting the digital skills activity led by Skills Development Scotland (SDS).

McLaughlin said: “There is a growing skills gap in digital technologies, rooting back to early education and females continue to be underrepresented. A wealth of resources and toolkits exist, however activation remains a challenge. I am keen to lead and collaborate to help change this.

“Gender diversity brings value to industry and we need to invest in making both educational institutions and industry more inclusive, open, and transparent so individuals of all ages are motivated, inspired and encouraged to pursue any career opportunities.

“I want to be the proactive, influential voice across Scottish industry and beyond to enact change.”

McLaughlin holds more than 15 years industry experience and has worked across a range of disciplines covering financial services, higher education, professional services, and technology for organisations such as Glasgow Caledonian University, PwC, National Australia Bank and Tesco Bank.

Her appointment was welcomed by Ross Tuffee, chair of the Digital Economy Skills Group.

He said: “The technology skills shortages faced by employers in all sectors in Scotland can only be tackled if we encourage more women and girls towards careers in technology.

“The tech industry itself must play a leading role in that, which is why it’s vital we have people like Sarah who can offer the benefit of her experiences.

“We’ve achieved a great deal so far, but we accept much more remains to be done, and Sarah will be an important voice in setting and helping us reach our ambitions.”

Addressing the gender imbalance is one of a series of key priorities in SDS’s work across all sectors of the digital economy.

Claire Gillespie, digital economy sector skills manager at SDS, said: “In recent years SDS has led on, and coordinated, a range of actions aimed at improving the gender balance in technology roles from developing a robust evidence base to helping employers attract, recruit and retain more female talent.

“Other developments have focused on various stages of the talent pipeline, from girls in the classroom to women returners.

“Industry input is essential to all of this work, and so it’s hugely important to have people like Sarah playing a key role.”

McLaughlin added: “Addressing the gender gap requires significant collaboration and actions across multiple stakeholder groups, and I intend to draw upon this to lead positive change for individuals and industry.

“There is a huge opportunity to draw a line in the sand, remove the stigma, and write the next chapter of today’s inclusive workplace. Together we can collectively help ignite change for now, and future generations and I cannot wait to get started as new chair of the gender diversity workstream.”