Diversity is one of the most prominent issues faced by digital businesses today. Research from industry body Tech Nation shows that women in IT are outnumbered by men 4:1 and make up just 19 per cent of the UK digital workforce.
The lack of young women taking up IT courses is a big cause of this imbalance. According to a report from the Royal Society, only 20 per cent per cent of GCSE computing students and 10 per cent of A-Level computing students were girls.
Clearly, there is a grass roots problem and more needs to be done to show young people, especially young women, that the technology industry is full of great opportunities. Our team explores this issue and how it can be tackled.
Kate Martin, Business Operations Associate at DevOpsGroup, believes that poor diversity in tech stems back to the education system. “When I was in school, I can’t remember being told about the opportunities available in the IT industry. Technology just isn’t promoted as a subject like English or history, but nowadays it should be,” she says.
“Although I work in a technology role today, I didn’t study computer science in school, college, or university. It just didn’t feel like a natural option at the time. Eventually, I went on to do an engineering degree. I’d say I stumbled into the industry by accident, but my skills were transferable.”
Throughout her career, Kate has noticed a clear gender imbalance and says tech is still viewed as a male-dominated world. “When taking part in a graduate scheme within the technology arm of a large organisation, there were five of us but I was the only female. I did feel like the token girl at times – even being told to dress in a certain way,” she says.
“To me, the issue is that women are deterred from pursuing technology careers due to stereotypes. However, there are so many women already forging successful careers in tech, and there’s a wide range of opportunities available. As an industry, we just need to get better at highlighting them and show girls that tech is an exciting area.”
Starting a conversation
Lucy Young, People Success Associate at DevOpsGroup, has been working in technology for around four years. Like Kate, she didn’t originally plan on developing a career in tech. “I initially started out doing general admin work at a solicitor’s firm, but I never really enjoyed that. It just wasn’t really a passion of mine,” she says.
“However, I’ve always had an interest in technology and ended up finding an opportunity in the sector. In my last workplace, there were around fifty people in the IT department but only four women.”
Her view is that organisations need to talk about diversity more and work together to find solutions. “During my time in technology, I’ve noticed more men working in the sector. And even now, you can still see that it’s a common thing. We need to be aware of this and try to bridge the gap.”
“A big part of my current role is improving diversity in the workplace. Talking about the challenges in the industry is crucial. At DevOpsGroup we’re in the process of setting up a diversity working group to raise awareness and eradicate the gender gap.”
“We also work closely with organisations such as Chwarae Teg to explore different ways we can improve our diversity. This year, we were awarded with their prestigious Exemplar Employer Award for our efforts.”
Katherine Axten, an engineering intern at DevOpsGroup, developed a fiery passion for technology at a young age. “My dad has always worked in tech, and he encouraged me to do more techy things. When I was younger, I used to take PCs apart and had a lot of fun in the process,” she says.
“After leaving school, I didn’t go for a career in tech straight away. But a couple of years ago, I took a programming course online and really enjoyed it. Then I decided to take it up at university. I guess I got into it by trying different things, but my dad’s encouragement was the biggest motivating factor.”
While Katherine has been immersed in technology from a young age, she believes that not enough is being done to position technology as an attractive career opportunity for young women.
“When I was in school, there were only three girls taking IT at GCSE. And even now, I don’t feel like there’s much encouragement. Speaking to old colleagues about my plans to study programming at university, they were all really surprised and were like ‘Oh, but you’re a girl’,” admits Katherine.
She suggests: “It’d make a such a difference if female role models went into schools to talk about the opportunities in the industry. There are so many great women working in technology, and they’re inspiring.”
“For a long time, technology roles have been viewed as something men would traditionally go into. That’s changing as we highlight the women in tech, but we need more encouragement that it’s okay to pursue a career in something which is not considered to be a traditional path.”
The gender gap in technology isn’t something that can be eradicated overnight. But this can be achieved over time by the industry and education system working together to highlight the opportunities in tech and break down age-old stereotypes.
To learn more about the great women working at DevOpsGroup, check out our team page.