Why are 50% of the UK population not getting into Tech?

Although there has been a big drive in the past few years to encourage more girls into technology subjects and careers, the disparity between men and women in this sector is still huge: Women make up only 17.5% of the UK ICT sector and last year only 10% of the students who took an A level in computing were female.

Given the rapidly growing need for skilled workers in the tech industry, the importance of encouraging this 50% of the population into the IT sector is as great as ever.  Last week The NAV People teamed up with First Option Software and The Winchester Science Centre to hold an event with expert guests from industry and education to address this issue head-on; exploring why the tech industry isn't appealing to girls and what can be done to influence and support decision makers into correcting the gender imbalance that exists.

The highlight of the evening was hearing from Aliza Exelby, a Computer Science student in her second year at Bath University.  Aliza shared the story of how she ended up taking her GCSE in computer science by accident – only looking into it after another of her female friends mentioned her interest in the subject (the friend did not take the subject in the end but Aliza did!) She was the only girl in the class but found that she enjoyed the subject and had a real aptitude for it.  Things followed on from there and she went on to take the subject at university.  Sadly, and rather surprisingly, it was only once she went to university that she experienced discrimination due to her gender.  She spoke of her frustration at not being taken seriously by her male peers and having to say things twice in small study groups in order to be heard.

So, what can be done to try and turn things around?  Interestingly many of the suggestions from the event weren’t gender specific but address the need to encourage people into the sector across the board. Here are the top 3 recommendations from the evening:

  • Raise greater awareness of what tech roles exist. Unless you are personally involved in the tech sector it can be a mysterious world! Parents and students alike are unsure of what roles in the ICT sector look like and this can lead to the subject being bypassed at GSCE level. 
  • Higher profiling of female role models from the tech industry. There is a need to increase girls’ confidence in stepping into tech – the idea of being ‘the only one’ is the final nail in the coffin for many of them!  By increasing the media exposure of female role models in the industry girls will see they will not be alone.
  • Introduce the fundamentals of computing and coding at primary school level.  Year 8 is too late!  It is important to give students the chance to have a go at coding as early on in their education as possible to peak their interest and make the subject familiar and accessible.  Introducing it just before they choose their GSCEs is simply too late!

The NAV People are committed to encouraging young people, both girls and boys, into the tech industry and run yearly apprenticeship schemes and coding camps to this end.  If you are interested to find out more please contact Faye Rivers: faye.rivers@thenavpeople.co.uk