That was some coup by Graham. Getting such illustrious speakers to the latest SOCITM North East meeting made it one of the best ones that I have ever been to. I am biased though, obviously. Since taking over as chair we’ve tried to create a theme for each meeting. The latest was around getting all of our talent into the IT industry but especially women. Remember this is one of the areas that I wanted to concentrate on this year and one that I’m quite comfortable with progress.
On the panel were Chi Onwurah MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central and a Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, Nadira Hussain, SOCITM President and One Oracle Programme Manager at OneSource as well as Becky Strachan, the Associate Dean for Business and Engagement within the Faculty of Engineering and Environment at Northumbria University. I told you it was illustrious. The event was sponsored by Nigel Frank International.
Before I get into what we talked about though here are some statistics. Across the UK, only sixteen per cent of IT workers are female. The picture is similar across Europe yet this is well down on the forty six percent of women in work across all markets. In my own service the percentage is around twenty four percent, which compares very favourably with some of the big players such as Google and Facebook. This belies the fact, however, that most of the female contingent make up the lower ranks in the organisation. As for SOCITM the figure is thirty five percent. Only fifteen per cent of computing degree students are female.
Yet ninety three per cent of employees indicate an overall skills gap in their IT team and by 2017 the UK will need an additional seven hundred and fifty thousand skilled IT workers. Things just don’t add up.
So what did we talk about? Chi talked about bringing digital into people’s lives and that transforming services digitally is the only way forward. We need to transform our approach however, so that the digital frontline can co-create services with the users. Only in this way will they be usable and acceptable.
We need to be careful to not lose sight of digital inclusion. Digital government without digital inclusion will lead to democracy amongst a narrow elite. There are eleven million people in the UK without basic digital skills and women make up a great proportion of this number. Digital inclusion needs to be one hundred per cent as the level of digital skill will drive economic growth.
Becky gave us an update on the work that Dynamo is doing in this area. She has been involved in the ‘Think Physics’ initiative in primary schools and felt that not enough teachers are coming from technical areas that can encourage children into technical subjects. The university recently ran a pop up shop on tech in North Shields shopping centre and two hundred people came along. Perhaps we need to be more inventive
Nadira described how ‘Women in IT’ is one of key themes of her presidency and that the digital label appears to attract more women into the industry than the IT label. Perhaps it’s the language we use. She is setting up a ‘Women in IT’ group as well as a work initiative to expose young people to private and public sector organisations. Both of these initiatives are not exclusively for women.
This SOCITM meeting is going to take some beating.