Welcome to the second monthly column from Donald McLaughlin.

The Chair of SDS’ Digital Technology Skills Group gives his personal perspective on some of the challenges impacting the tech sector in Scotland. This month Donald looks at what’s being done to tackle gender imbalance. In 2016, Skills Development Scotland (SDS) undertook research into gender and the technology industry in Scotland, verifying there was a significant gender imbalance. This is a big problem for many reasons, but particularly because it represents a huge loss of potential talent to a sector which has significant skills shortages and unfilled vacancies. To try and address this issue we set up a dedicated working group called Tackling the Technology Gender Gap Together (TTGGT), a partnership between SDS, the Scottish Qualifications Authority, Education Scotland and industry. And it’s a partnership that is working. The most recent figures released by the Scottish Government indicates that women working in tech has increased from 18 to 23.4%. Although this is great news, we recognize that much still needs to be done to build on that positive trend, so the work of the TTGGT and others continues, and includes: Gender Diversity Best Practice Guide for Employers SDS worked with Equate Scotland to develop materials to support technology employers efforts to address the gender challenge, including a diversity guide supported by a series of webinars and case studies from the likes of Amazon, Fanduel and Sky. The recommendations were tailored for start-ups, SMEs and large employers to ensure they were realistic and achievable for all. Role Models & Mentors into Schools The research identified the importance of promoting positive and realistic role models and mentors to young girls, but also noted issues with the quantity and the quality of mentor experiences. To tackle this we worked with Girl Geek Scotland to develop training materials to encourage and support young women volunteering to be role models and mentors for school age girls.  The resource pack includes a training webinar, a directory of organisations that people can volunteer with, guidance materials, classroom activity resources, and case studies.  Digital Skills Teacher Resources SDS worked with Education Scotland to develop teaching resources and lesson plans for general education to extend the reach of digital technology skills into subjects popular with girls such as Art, English, Languages and Music.  This approach allows technology to be contextualised into these different disciplines, and introduces technology skills to young girls who may not otherwise have the opportunity.  The resources are available for teachers via Education Scotland, Glow and the Technologies Network. Girl Guides Digital Challenge Badge We launched the country’s first digital activity badge with the Girl Guides designed to encourage girls of all ages to develop the skills they need for their digital future. Created in partnership with Education Scotland, the badge aims to empower every girl to make the most of the opportunities technology has to offer (teaching them about computers, algorithms, creativity and design) as well as highlighting career options in the industry. Career Hub The Equate Careerhub is Scotland’s first dedicated recruitment website targeting women in science, engineering, technology and the built environment. It hosts job ads from employers actively looking to address the gender imbalance in Scotland’s STEM sectors. SWIT The growing success and influence of Scotland Women in Technology is another positive sign of change. This organisation celebrates the impact women have in the industry, as well as championing the sector to girls in schools across the country. It was great to see a sell-out attendance at this year’s SWIT awards ceremony, indicating how important the organisation and the issue is to the industry. Our skills group will continue to look at innovative ways to ensure the number of women joining our industry continues to grow, but the fact is we all have a role to play in reducing the gender gap. SDS and others are there to help you, so please call on their support, so they can help you to help us maintain this positive momentum.