Why Is There Still A Gender Gap In UK Tech?
In opinion / By Ellen Bowers / 20 April 2017
Theresa May has described the technology industry as a “great British success story” after a report revealed that investment in digital businesses spread across the country last year. Tech seems to be the new driving force in British industry, expanding its reach beyond London with 72pc of venture capital and private equity investment went to regional business in 2016, amounting to £9.2bn, according to the third annual Tech Nation report.
The UK is a true tech leader in Europe in attracting a huge £28bn in technology investment since 2011. Undoubtedly the tech industry is a major contributor to the UK economy, so why is there still a gender gap in UK tech?
An audit from Manchester Digital found that the tech workforce within the north of England is split 72:28 male to female compared to a 60:40 split the previous year. The gender gap is even more prominent when it comes to the more technical roles where the male to female split increases to a shocking 88:12. In addition, over half of businesses surveyed said their tech teams were made up of an entirely male team.
Results from the audit also showed that developer roles are the most difficult roles to recruit for, regardless of gender, as if we needed any more reason to encourage girls to learn code! Businesses within the north are having to inflate salaries in order to secure tech talent needed.
Despite the introduction of the new U.K computer curriculum the continual rise in after-school coding clubs brought in to encourage girls into an interest in technology, most girls’ perception of coding and engineering doesn’t appear to have changed. Unfortunately, this is reflected within the UK’s digital workforce with the number of females within the industry dropping in the last 15 years and the number of women studying engineering has not risen since 2012. Surely, we need to encourage the brightest and the best into UK tech is we want the industry to continue to thrive.
This is an issue that isn’t being ignored, the gender gap in the technology workforce is constantly being drawn to our attention and organisations around the world have launched campaigns in an attempt to get girls into science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). Yet this doesn’t seem to be having much of an impact, with only 13 percent of the STEM workforce being made up of women.
So why aren’t STEM subjects or careers appealing to girls? Only a quarter of girls aged 8 to 12 said they knew anything about engineering, and those who did said it was “too difficult” and that it was a career “for boys.” This division between what is viewed as “for boys” implies the social stigma around what children study at school and the gender stereotypes associated with these subjects.
Jeanne Meister of office consultancy Future Workplace states “what’s really shocking is that girl’s consideration of an IT career decreases the older they get. That says to me, that they have an intellectual curiosity about technology, but it’s lost by the time they get to high school.”
So what exactly are the reasons for the lack of women in tech, it is believed that women opt out of STEM subjects pretty early on, opting out of this area of study very early on, deciding it isn’t for them between the ages of ten and seventeen. Exposure to technology could be part of the reason that there is a lack of interest in technology from girls, with 11% of boys starting to use gadgets aged five or younger, compared with 5% of girls.
Alternatively, it could be a lack of awareness, that’s causing the disinterest in STEM subjects and careers, almost half of boys, while at school consider a career in technology, the same is true of only a quarter of girls. However, 53% of girls said that if they were given more information on what options they had in a career in tech they would consider continuing their IT studies.
Views on how to resolve the gender imbalance in technology are varied and greatly debated, but the focus remains on discouraging gender stereotypes within schools by making tech seem interesting and fun and not just for boys. The next generation of women need to be encouraged from an early age to take an interest in and develop the required skills to build a successful career in IT.