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Why recruiters must fight the gender gap

Ashleigh Clowes, HR advisor (diversity & inclusion) at Nicoll Curtin

There is an impending skills gap in the technology industry. The demand for engineers remains high and continues to grow. The IET’s Skills and Demand survey found that over 50% of UK businesses are recruiting for engineering and technology staff right now. 64% say a shortage of engineers in the UK is a threat to their business.

And yet, the industry is failing to engage almost half of the UK’s skilled workforce – women.

Women make up 47% of the UK workforce. So why do women only occupy 6% of engineering positions? And only 12.8% of broader STEM occupations?

In education I was a strong mathematician and achieved good grades in physics. I have always found technological advances exciting. The opportunities to innovate as part of a career in tech are engaging, as are the opportunities for creativity and entrepreneurship.

Why did I not opt for a career in technology?

I made my GCSE choices at 14 years old, with an extremely limited view as to what careers were available. At this age, unless you are told otherwise, your understanding of the careers available to you comes from the professions of the adults in your life, be this parents, teachers or family friends.

My perception of the technology industry was that you were either:

  1. IT support (by which I only envisaged the man I called when my computer was broken)
  2. A genius of momentous proportions, who would  work with NASA and the White House and the MI5 all at once to solve all of the world’s problems

IT support did not appeal and I was no rival to Einstein, so IT subjects didn’t feature in my GCSE choices.

At 16, choosing my A-Levels, I didn’t believe that I could take computing or ICT as I didn’t at GCSE. I was completely unaware that maths or physics were applicable or utilised in pursuing technology subjects.

I didn't opt for a career in technology because it wasn’t even on my radar; I never considered it an option.

Information is key to making the technology industry an option for all young women.

My complete lack of information is not unique. A Girlguiding UK survey found that 43% of girls said they were put off science and engineering careers because they did not know enough about the kind of careers available. The same number describe the careers advice they received as poor.

It is essential that we are educating young women on the scope and variety of roles available within technology before they make these choices; using real women, real jobs and current job titles. It is about making these jobs real, accessible options and ensuring an understanding of the skills and qualifications they require.

Hence #CodingAllowed, Nicoll Curtin’s commitment to decreasing the gender disparity and skills gap in technology by increasing the number of women opting for tech careers. We run a series of events which include CV workshops, interview coaching, careers information and opportunities to meet a host of inspiring senior women in technology from a range of FTSE 100 organisations. It is a chance for girls and women to ask questions, explore a variety of career options, seek advice and make connections.

Follow #CodingAllowed on Twitter to hear updates on our next #CodingAllowed event in partnership with London Technology Week. The event will be a screening of CODE – Debugging the Gender Gap, followed by a panel discussion featuring senior female technologists from a range of FTSE 100 organisations.

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