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Women in STEM 2020

It’s never too late to start a career in tech

Debbie Forster

CEO, Tech Talent Charter

Why women of any age can consider a career in tech, and how companies can and should help make this a reality.

Addressing the tech gender gap

In 2019, HP and the Fawcett Society collaborated on research which found up to 70% of young women would be interested in a tech career. This was wonderful news and, I believe, reflects the efforts made in recent years to inspire school and college age girls to embrace a passion for technology. 

Partner organisations like Tech She Can and the Institute of Coding are working tirelessly to inspire a generation of tech-savvy young women to help address the pitiful gender gap that persists in the UK’s tech sector.

But what about this working generation? The women who do not have tech qualifications, or started down a different career path? Is it too late for them?

Women without tech backgrounds can’t see themselves in tech

Lack of confidence is a major obstacle to encouraging women into tech, with around 25% of those polled in the research saying they didn’t study STEM subjects because they didn’t think they could do it. 32% of women not currently in technical roles said they felt they didn’t have the appropriate qualifications to make the move. But encouragingly, the HP research also found that 45% of women expressed willingness to retrain in a technical job.

This tells us that companies seeking to access that untapped talent pool can’t simply cross their fingers and hope women show up. Our research shows that the best way to drive acquisition and retention of women into tech roles is through proactive retraining, mentoring and returners programmes, making it unmistakably clear that women are welcome and in demand.

Companies need to create returners and retraining programmes to attract mid-career women into tech

At the Tech Talent Charter, we work with some of the most progressive organisations on this front, in multiple sectors. These companies know the value of championing women in tech roles, and the benefits this brings to their products, their teams and their businesses.

We recently asked them to send us interesting examples of women who had found alternative routes into tech careers in their organisations. We received more than 300 stories inside a week. Women with backgrounds as teachers, marketeers, pastry-chefs, or stay at home mums had found the courage to take that leap and follow their dreams. We were so inspired by their remarkable stories that we’re running a campaign later this year to publicise the opportunities available for women to switch to a tech role.

One such woman, is Maryam Qureshi, who discovered her early career as a teacher was not where her true passions lay; “Although I loved teaching, I quickly realised my real passion lay in a more technical field. I took a leap of faith with a role at a heat recovery company. I was then head hunted and introduced to the fascinating world of 3D printing. I had no previous experience in the sector, but I was totally captivated by the industry and my passion for innovation came to the fore. I am currently a technical consultant at HP, mobilising the UK’s fleet of 3D printers to help rapidly make needed healthcare supplies – such as ventilator parts, adjustable mask straps and face shields.”

The more companies take direct action to attract women to apply for tech roles in their organisation, the quicker they will access this remarkable talent and help close the gender gap. Because I know from personal experience, that it’s never too late to start a career in tech.

To address the tech gender gap now, companies must proactively connect with women who don’t have tech backgrounds and create alternative routes into tech for them, such as returners and retraining programmes. See the Open Playbook at for best practice advice on how to do this.

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