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More needs to be done to address gender gap in digital roles, according to Forward Role

The number of women securing digital roles is increasing, but more still needs to be done to address an “obvious discrepancy” in the ratio of women who land senior positions within the industry when compared with men.

This is the view of Steve Thompson, managing director of Forward Role. He pointed to new data, which showed that 53% of the company’s digital placements in 2015 were female, while circa 61% of all junior jobs (under £25,000 per annum) were filled by women.

In February 2016, women and equalities minister, Nicky Morgan, announced plans to narrow gender pay gaps across the board. New legislation will force businesses with more than 250 employees to publish their gender pay gap data - a move that will affect around 8,000 UK companies. The reforms will also ensure that thousands more girls are studying STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects at school.

Thompson commented, “There is an obvious discrepancy when you examine the number of women in senior digital roles in the region versus men. In what has been traditionally seen as a male-dominated, highly-technical sector, it’s great to see a movement for change driven by digital bodies and women in technology groups to redress the balance. I think as the industry becomes increasingly demystified and marketing led, we’re seeing a new generation of women in digital who can hopefully narrow the gap.”

Forward Role asked a number of women who have forged successful careers in digital roles to share their thoughts on how the industry is shaping up.

Founder and director manager of Small Man Media PR Agency, Rachel Smallman, has been in the industry for 20 years, and she feels that women have been deterred from applying for web development and graphic design roles because they’re viewed as being male-dominated professions. This is steadily starting to change, though.

She said, “I think this stems from the notion that boys are mainly gamers when they grow up, or at least very influenced by their PlayStations etc. Their future careers lead them into this world. However, with design and digital being more accessible through platforms like WordPress, Facebook, apps etc. more and more people (females) can ‘explore’ design in the secure location of their home/lunch hour, hence the growth of bloggers, who are a major influencer in the world of marketing and PR.”

Antonia Taylor, founder of Antonia Taylor PR, believes that women shouldn’t underestimate how important it is to network. She commented, “Something I wish I’d realised from the very outset of my career is the power of networking. Build those connections, begin slowly through social media and simply start putting yourself out there. My personal mantra is ‘make friends, not contacts’, and taking this approach really shifted my mindset.

“Don’t walk into a roomful of strangers thinking: 'What can I get out of this?' Focus on what you have to offer, how you can help - we all have something to give no matter where we are in our careers.  When you shift towards that spirit of generosity - rather than the desperate needy person we’d all choose to avoid - you start becoming that go-to person. Then watch how your network flourishes - and opportunities, partnerships and new openings follow.”

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