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April 11, 2019updated 12 Apr 2019 4:08pm

Retraining key to increasing number of women in tech industry

By Ellen Daniel

A lack of confidence in their qualifications and technical ability is a major barrier to women entering the technology industry.

This is according to an independent survey commissioned by HP, which polled 1,000 women aged 20 to 32 across the UK on the barriers to a career in tech.

According to the Tech Talent Charter, only 17% of the current tech workforce is female, with women of colour further underrepresented, and black and Hispanic women making up less than 3% of the Silicon Valley workforce.

However, nearly 70% of the 1000 women surveyed from across the UK said they would be interested in jobs in the tech sector, meaning the industry is missing out on untapped tech talent, especially considering the skills shortage it is currently facing.

While 97% of women consider technology to be key to the future success of the UK economy, a large proportion, 32%, expressed concern about lacking the right qualifications. According to a study by Exasol, the percentage of girls studying STEM subjects at A-level has risen from 6.5% to 11.8% in the last five years.

However, this has not yet translated into a higher proportion choosing a career in tech, with just 5% of leadership positions in the technology sector held by women. The industry must now focus on how it can convert women’s interest into them pursuing a tech career and understand what is leading many to disregard a career in the sector.

Despite this, 45% of women expressed a willingness to retrain in a technical job, suggesting a huge opportunity to increase female representation through retraining and upskilling for those already in employment.

Women in tech retraining to widen candidate pool

Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society believes recruiting from a more diverse pool of talent is vital for the UK tech industry to achieve its full potential:

“The UK’s tech sector will never lead the world if we only recruit from half the population.  Women and girls have the capability but they don’t always see tech as being for them. We have to challenge these assumptions and change the stereotypes.”

However, the results showed a lack of confidence and of being under-qualified as a key driver behind the shortage of women in the sector. 25% of those women who didn’t study STEM said it was because they didn’t believe they could do it.

Additionally, many may be put off by misconceptions about working in the industry.The survey revealed that work-life balance was among the top three priorities when choosing a career, but only 25% of women surveyed associated this with the tech sector. This indicates that companies must re-think how they are recruiting, with demonstrating flexibility and balance when advertising jobs a key was of attracting women.

Debbie Foster, CEO of Tech Talent Charter believes that addressing this could help remove one of the barriers preventing women from considering a career in this area:

“Clearly there is a lack of understanding of what a career in tech can offer women in terms of flexibility and the sheer range of job opportunities on offer. Women don’t yet understand the wide range of routes they can take into tech and underestimate their ability to take these up.  They can’t see a way into tech for themselves.  We are working with employers to change that narrative and help women see they are welcome and highly sought after in today’s tech industry.”

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