Erin Gray, Scrum Master at Tecknuovo, explores why education will help us shatter the glass ceiling.
Let's talk about the elephant in the room. The tech industry has a diversity problem. Particularly when it comes to female representation.
According to recent research from PwC, only 15% of people in STEM roles are women and worse still, only 5% of leadership positions are held by women. This has to change. The gender gap starts in schools and continues through every stage of education, with male students making up the majority in all STEM subjects with the exception of biology.
There are many different factors that contribute to the gender disparity, but perhaps the biggest and easiest to remedy is a lack of information about what careers in tech involve, which contributes to a staggering 61% of women not pursuing careers in the industry. We need to act now to prevent the gender gap from widening.
Amstrads and A Levels
Thinking back to when I was younger, there was definitely a lack of information about IT, so my route into the industry wasn't exactly typical. When I finished school, my A levels didn't go as planned and I was left wondering what to do next. I had always been fascinated by my dad's Amstrad computer, so my sister suggested I consider a career in IT. I managed to find a computing course that didn't require A levels or prior tech experience and applied under the provision that I would just try it for a year and see how it went. It turns out that was the best decision I could have made and I stuck with it year after year until I graduated.
Back then I didn't know about all the different career paths within the industry. I only knew about computer programming and thought that it was my only option. Not long after I graduated, I realised I just didn't have a passion for programming but luckily I made the move into project management, where I thrived. This lack of information is still a problem today and if we want to recruit more women we need to open their eyes to all the different job roles and opportunities in the industry.
Inspiring the next generation
Schools should be inspiring girls from a young age to take an interest in IT and technology and doing more to develop their skills. With children growing up using technology from such a young age, it's only natural that they have an interest in it. We should therefore be nurturing that passion by showing them how to develop websites and teaching them about the back end of the apps they probably use everyday. Learning these types of skills at a young age will encourage more girls to pursue a career in tech.
Another issue is the lack of senior female role models in the industry. As many as 83% of women can't identify a role model who inspires them to work in tech. If you can see it, you can be it, so we need to work on increasing the number of female leaders in the sector if we hope to inspire future generations.
Inspiring, training and making girls aware of tech roles will result in more women choosing a career in the industry. If we encourage more women to start in tech at the ground level, more of them will be climbing the ladder and eventually we will see more women in positions of power. It is time we shattered that glass ceiling.
Erin Gray is a finalist in the upcoming Women in Technology Excellence Awards, Transformation Leader of the Year (Tech) category.