One of the Tech Women Celebration 50 - women changing the ratio of the tech workforce
Emily Hall-Strutt is Director of Next Tech Girls, an award-winning social enterprise which runs tech focused events and work experience placements for teenage girls, especially those from ethnic minority and/or lower income backgrounds.
Emily is also a certified Scrum Master and Agile coach, and a great example to the girls and young women Next Tech Girls aims to inspire of how varied a tech career can be - even if it's a path you didn't always expect to follow.
Speaking at the recent Women in Technology Festival, Emily explained that most schools are simply not equipped to sell the benefits of tech careers. Teacher simply aren't aware of the rich diversity of careers the sector offers, and the computing curriculum is heavy on coding and development, and the kinds of skills you might need in infrastructure support - but that's it. The more creative aspects of technology are absent.
Emily emphasises the importance of role models, and spends a great deal of her time and energy countering sterotypes and putting positve role models in front of her target audience, and that includes career switchers as well as girls still in education.
"We hope that every girl who looks at our social media or goes to one of our events or does a work experience placement will see or speak to a woman who they can relate to and who they can also see themselves potentially following in their footsteps."
As well as setting up placements and helping girls and young women to develop the soft skills that will help them unlock opportunities in the future, Next Tech Girls is helping young women build the networks that are so important, both for developing career opportunities but also for support in a world where women are in a minority and will realistically remain so for at least a few years. At the moment, a girl who likes the idea of studying computer science at A-level might well rule it out when she realises she's the only girl likely to be doing it. It can be lonely. Emily is working to counter this phenomenon:
"One of the benefits of what we're doing is the community that we're fostering among the girls that do our placements, but also with the women that we've worked with as well as role models.
"We try to get placements in groups and have girls from different schools, so they can meet girls who have got those similar interests. That's a big part of what we're trying to do, bring these girls together who might be the only one in their school that's interested in tech and help them find friends in other schools who have got similar interests that will help to keep them going."