Low numbers of female mentors and role models becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy in IT, turning women off from starting in the sector. That's not good enough
Gender diversity is one of the major challenges facing the technology sector globally. In the UK, BCS: The Chartered Institute for IT's insight report indicated that only 19 per cent of IT specialists in the UK workforce were female in 2020. Over the years, companies have deployed different strategies to address this problem; however, according to Tech Nation, WISE and other sources, the gender gap in the technology sector continues to grow year over year.
Research into the sector's lack of diversity and the gender gap has revealed several contributing factors. A report from Specops last year highlighted some of the dominant themes, including a lack of female role models, lack of diversity within teams, and a conservative mindset towards career growth.
These themes resonate with my own seven years' experience in the technology industry, and I believe that an intervention to address them can make an impactful change. In this article, I will be sharing insights from a programme BT have put in place that is making a difference.
British Telecommunications (BT) has openly published its goals for diversity & inclusion, with 50 per cent gender, 25 per cent ethnicity & 17 per cent disability targets by 2030. These goals align with the company's core principle to have diverse, talented teams to build a legacy for BT's future. The business has already implemented a wide range of strategies to achieve these targets, one of which is the Accelerate Programme: a developmental offering for colleagues identified as having the high potential to become a future senior leader at BT.
The programme consists of bespoke modules tailored towards educating the participants on the mental and emotional skills required for career growth. Some of the topics include emotional intelligence, personal brand, and growth mindset (by Matthew Syed). To help address gender diversity, the program includes a TechWomen track, which focuses on delivering a series of empowering sessions to help increase visibility and self-awareness, as well as provide tips on becoming a female leader. The programme also provides an Ethnicity track, focusing on inclusive and collective leadership with an opportunity to be mentored by senior leaders from ethnic minority backgrounds within the industry.
The 2021 programme has been running for the past three and half months and has made a huge difference in my career. I have had the opportunity to listen and network with amazing women breaking down barriers and building successful careers in technology. The biggest impact for me has been an opportunity to take a step back to reflect on my career so far and the plan for the future. It is not going to be an easy road ahead, and the mentorship by senior leaders who have embarked on a similar journey has helped me to gain insights on how best to overcome the challenges women face in the tech sector.
Ifeoma is an award-winning technology project manager, currently working at BT. Her specialty is the delivery of highly complex technical projects.
Ifeoma was recognised in 2021 as a Wonder Woman and an inspiration to all women by PMI UK. She is a winner of the 2021 TechWomen 100 awards and was a finalist in the Computing Rising Stars Awards. She was also recognised in BT through the Accelerate Programme, as possessing the potential to become a future senior leader in BT.