The digital skills gap must be addressed - one way is by inspiring more females to choose tech. 

Diversity is not only a way to fill a gap, there is a strong business case. Ideas that originate from non-diverse teams do not often reflect the markets’ need. A diverse team can more accurately understand their customer base and needs. Also, gender-diverse companies are 45 per cent more likely to improve market share and are 70 per cent more likely to report successfully capturing new markets.

To address the issue of gender diversity, we need to look at the pipeline – attracting, retaining and supporting the progression of women in tech. Only through a collaborative effort between Government, business and educational institutions can this be achieved.   

 

Starting in the Classroom

 

Girls taking computing at A-Level has declined by 70 per cent – and boys are four times more likely to take IT GCSE. With so much talent lost at GCSE, advice and guidance from an early age is critical for girls who are interested in pursuing Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects.

A number of resources are available, including People Like Me, which empowers young women to understand the opportunities in tech. It allows girls to use their natural tendency to define themselves by adjectives – such as imaginative or good with numbers (rather than objectively, as boys generally do). The tools translate the descriptions into career types, such as Explorer or Regulator, Persuader or Developer, showing which STEM careers could be of interest.

 

Retaining the Talent

 

Estimates suggest that almost two million UK women are currently economically inactive due to caring commitments and 76 per cent of professional women on those career breaks want to return to work. However, lack of structure for women who have taken prolonged leave means there is a widening gap in female tech leaders.

techUK identified that returners needed a tool they could use to get back into the tech sector. Our Returners Hub is an online resource for jobseekers and employers. It aims to help individuals returning to the tech sector by providing free resources and job opportunities, and employers explore training initiatives to create their own returners’ programmes.

 

Trajectory of Progression

 

Lack of diversity in senior leadership also impacts business. Publicly traded companies with male-only executive directors missed out on £430bn of investment returns in 2016. To address issues like this, techUK has been a part of launching the Tech Talent Charter. The Tech Talent Charter (TTC) is a recently launched Government-backed initiative where organisations commit to a set of undertakings that aim to deliver greater diversity in the UK tech workforce, better reflecting the make-up of the population. As the scope of the TTC grows, it will be a catalyst for a quantifiable increase in the number of women in tech.

The Government, industry and academia must work together to promote existing initiatives and create programmes that encourage women to enter the thriving tech industry. By inspiring females to choose STEM the UK will be better able to create a modern, open economy that works for all.