The future is female: How can we get more girls into tech careers?
Written on: 29 July 2020
Written by: Frances Hardcastle
[Employers, The Future Is Female, Women in STEM]
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The tech industry today promises creative, flexible and highly rewarding career pathways, and it is estimated that around 80% of future jobs will require STEM skills. Why is it then that only 27% of young women say they’d consider a career in technology, and only 3% would say it’s their first choice of career?
In June, female industry leaders came together for a panel at the virtual WeAreTechWomen Conference. Baltic’s London-based Employer Engagement Manager, Lottie Peart, was listening in from her living room, and shared some key insights from this panel as they asked and answered the vital question: “what can we do to encourage more girls into STEM?”
For some young women and girls, the tech industry has opened up during the Covid-19 lockdown. As tech education organisations like InnovateHer and Tech We Can were forced to pivot from physical workshops to online delivery, their message has reached new audiences and exploded in popularity. Much like PE with Joe Wicks, Tech We Can Tuesdays have taken a prominent place on the zoom-school curriculum, with parents and students tuning into bitesize sessions highlighting the possibilities of technology across different industries.
According to Sheridan Ash, founder of the Tech She Can charter, parental engagement has been an important factor in the success of their online programme. Parents have been watching the lessons with their children and realising the potential of technology – some are now pursuing a career in tech for themselves! Because of this success, Tech We Can are now planning to expand their at-home offer, and will be building in more resources for parents as part of their long term delivery approach.
There’s a huge opportunity here which could be a game-changer for the industry. It’s important that we extract what worked to engage girls during lockdown and apply these elements to future tech education activity. Workshops in schools can be transformational, but if we want our girls to grow up to be women in tech, advocacy for technology can’t be confined behind the school gates. These additional home resources could make all the difference and get girls pursuing tech careers.
Role models are crucial for showcasing the possibilities of a career in tech. As the saying goes: if you can see it, you can be it. Sheridan Ash made an excellent point during the panel discussion, arguing that organisations should “showcase young, relatable role models,” rather than the narrow range of CEOs championed by the industry, which many girls often view as unattainable.
STEMettes lead by example with the use of role models across their content. During lockdown, they produced an amazing 13 week online programme of STEM-based activities. Each week was named for a different female role model, featuring content around their work. This collection of role models was a diverse mix of historical and current industry figures at various levels in their careers, including Angela Taylor (a software engineer at Google) and Cristina Pascalau (a Front-End software developer at Bank of America). They also ran weekly live Instagram Q&A sessions with “STEMtastic role models” from different industries.
This is exactly what our industry needs. STEMettes consciously celebrate the often-hidden history of women in technology, and crucially also work to identify and champion women excelling in tech careers right now. Thinking back to when we started our careers, our strongest mentors and role models were often those women just a few years older and just a few steps ahead, lighting the pathway to success. We need examples of paths to follow, and we need to show girls what it means to be an early-career tech leader.
Representation in the tech industry matters. We’re rapidly creating a world where algorithms determine many aspects of our lives, from the shows we watch, to the products we buy and even the jobs we are shortlisted for. We need women in the room, actively contributing to the development of the systems that could one day determine our futures. We need women in tech.
At Baltic Apprenticeships, we take securing the next generation of talent very seriously. We work with amazing employers to create opportunities for young people in Software Development, IT Infrastructure and Digital Marketing. Our goal is to support a gender balanced tech sector, and we will do all we can to make this vision a reality.
Here’s a list of some incredible organisations taking practical action and opening up the tech sector to young women and girls:
Tech We Can is an online resource hub, offering lesson packs designed to be taught to both boys and girls in the classroom. Each lesson showcases the possibility of tech in different industries and settings, presenting girls with female industry role models and insight. Since Covid-19, these lessons have been made available to parents and students at home, along with new, bitesize content released live on Tech Tuesdays.
InnovateHer is based in the North West and have been running tech educational programmes for girls for over 4 years, reaching over 1000 girls in over 50 schools. In May 2020, they launched the InnovateHer Online portal, enabling girls to take part in their digital programmes from home. Over 6 weeks, 13-16 year old girls can choose from the “Tech for Good” or “Gaming” pathways, and learn about tech through completing a hands-on project. Funded places are available for low income families, and InnovateHer are working with partner organisations to ensure more women and girls have access to tech devices at home.
STEMettes is an award-winning social enterprise working to inspire and support young women into STEM careers. They offer “free, fun and food-filled experiences.” Online, they host a Zine and The Stemette Society, a moderated online community for young women and non-binary people.
Cajigo is a mobile learning platform where women can chat and connect with one another, be inspired by industry role models and receive mentoring from senior executives. The app-based platform is available alongside Cajigo Schools workshops which aim to raise the aspirations and confidence of girls from year 9 and above.
So far, Code First Girls have taught over 17,000 women how to code for free. They offer 18-23 year olds training in web development, python programming, data science and SQL programming. Their courses are also available to women seeking a career change.
The Like Minded Females Network is a global community dedicated to changing the narrative around inclusion through life skills workshops, community building and corporate training. Since 2018 they have trained more than 20,000 people through their workshops.
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