‘Lack of confidence is stopping young women from pursuing careers in technology’

Safa Boga, Project Manager at Tech City who wants to see more young women take up careers in technology. UK Picture: Paul Clarke
Safa Boga, Project Manager at Tech City who wants to see more young women take up careers in technology. UK Picture: Paul Clarke
Have your say

MANY young women are failing to pursue rewarding and well-paid careers in technology because they lack confidence in their technical skills, according to a new study.

The research from Tech City UK found that large numbers of young men are placing technology at the top of their professional wish list.

However, many young women are being left out in the cold.

More than a third (36 per cent) of male respondents said they aimed to work in the tech sector, compared with just 13 per cent of women.

Young women were more likely than men to believe that they do not have what it takes for a career in technology.

Some 45 per cent of young female respondents claimed they did not have the skills to work in technology, while 38 per cent said they lacked knowledge about technology and 24 per cent claimed it is “not for people like them”.

The Tech Nation Talent Report from Tech City UK is sponsored by Hays Digital Technology in partnership with the Department of Computer Science at the University of Sheffield. The report canvassed the opinions of 1,000 young people, and analysed 80,000 posts on Reddit, the discussion forum.

Dr George Windsor, senior insights manager, Tech City UK, said: “If our digital ecosystem is to thrive, it needs to engage the best and brightest minds of the next generation.

“It is clear that more must be done, both by the technology industry, and in schools, to show young women that they are more than capable of excelling in this industry.

This needs to start at primary school; by age 15, girls already doubt their abilities, and are discounting technology as a career.

“But there is hope. As the technology industry itself becomes more diverse, attracting more female entrepreneurs, coders, engineers, and investors, there are more and more role models for young women to aspire to.”

Mr Windsor said that one of the key ways in which the technology sector can appeal to more young women is by reducing gender bias in its recruitment process.

He added: “For instance, by using gender neutral language to advertise tech vacancies. The use of particular words and phrases will have an impact on whether men or women feel able, or qualified to apply for a job. A good first step is to understand what extent the advertisements that are currently being used include gender coding. Tools such as, Matfield’s Gender Decoder for Job Ads informs the user whether the ad that is pasted into the text box is masculine, or feminine coded.

“Companies should also be clear on their company culture, and tell people about it. In most cases, people will have strong preferences for working at a company based on their pre-conceptions of that organisation, informed by what they see of the company in public spheres, like the media, and from friends and family. As such, companies should strive to be open and transparent about issues like pay, culture and equal opportunities.

“Education does have a leading role to play in encouraging more young women into tech careers. A lot of good work is already being done in this area, but there is a long way to go. We know that role models help young people to identify the profession they aspire to with their own experiences – as such, female role models are important in encouraging young women to pursue science-related careers, and research has found that women respond positively to this encouragement in pursuit of their STEM trajectories. Founders4Schools is a good example of business leaders being invited into schools to inspire students.”

Mr Windsor said that female networking groups can play a significant role in encouraging women into the tech sector, such as Women Who Code, GeekGirl Meetup UK, Bristol Girl Geek and Liverpool Geek Girls.

He added: “Female coding courses are also key to getting women working into the tech sector, such as CodeFirstGirls. Breaking down gender stereotypes is so important in this sector, that creating a space in which women can learn, see the opportunities and realise that it is for people like them is invaluable.”

Tech City UK delivers programmes and initiatives to accelerate the growth of digital businesses across the UK at all stages of their development.

Tech City UK started life in Shoreditch in 2010 to support the East London tech cluster known as London Tech City or Silicon Roundabout.

It has grown to support tech companies across the UK. From April 2018, Tech City UK will be known as Tech Nation.

The rebrand will allow the not-for-profit organisation to accelerate its expansion across the UK.