Unfolding plans 14 – We need more women working in ICT

We need more women working in ICT.  It is a male dominated industry and at times can lean towards misogyny.  I did not put them in any order but this the first thing on my list of things to achieve this year.  Actually this is not a gender issue though it certainly manifests itself this way.  It is not about women per se.  What we need is an industry that represents the breadth of its user base and makes use of all the talent that exists within our society.

So we need more young people in general, from all the strata of society and in particular we need more women.  I think the problem starts at school but it may start in the home.  I am no expert yet young children appear to be equally capable of using and enjoying technology.  It is a sweeping generalisation that by the time they become teenagers girls are switched off and boys remain interested.

A look around the technical team within my own service tells the story.  Although about thirty per cent of ICT Services is female this team stands out as the domain of men.  I wish I knew why.

We’ve been taking in some apprentices.  Eventually we will have ten in total and so far we have been unable to attract any women.  It could be that our adverts are wrong.  It could be that the positions we are adverting are not of interest.  It could be that there just aren’t women out there who see the IT industry as a suitable choice for them.  Who knows?

We need to take on more women but to achieve this we need to have more women applying for the jobs we have.  To achieve this we need more studying the right subjects and to achieve this we need to work with those people who influence children to encourage them to believe that technology can offer a viable career choice.

It could be a generational problem yet technology is going to play such a large role in the future of the regional economy that it is not something we should not walk away from.  The skills agenda is something that occupies a lot of people’s time and we in the public sector can play our part.  We have three events in the planning stage.

Firstly an event aimed at carers, teachers, parents and other people of influence who children look up to as role models, to let them know about the extent of the industry and the range of job opportunities that are available today.  These opportunities are only going to increase.

The second is focussed on teenagers and we are working with former television presenter Maggie Philbin and the ‘Teentech’ group that she has set up.  We have held an initial meeting to try and get an event across going the region.

Finally one of the local schools that we provide services to is holding a two-day Raspberry Pi event aimed at the pupils who are coming up to deciding upon their subject choices.  There should also be an opportunity to bring in younger students from the feeder schools and again this is at an early planning stage.

I’ll come back to apprentices and code clubs at some time in the future but it looks like this ball is starting to roll.  Aimie and Sandra are on the case.

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