Research from Manchester Digital has revealed that 82% of women currently working in tech were never encouraged to pursue digital- or tech-related subjects in school.
In total, women comprise less than 25% of the UK’s core STEM workforce, and while female representation in STEM roles may be steadily on the rise, the sector is far from reaching gender parity, with respondents noting that “there’s a real disparity that happens at school, when mainly girls are put off studying certain subjects”. Consequently, Manchester Digital is calling out for more targeted support and promotion of tech careers for young women at every education level.
With minimal STEM interaction seen throughout their education, the ripple effect for women becomes apparent as their career progresses. More than two-fifths (41%) of respondents claimed their gender had held them back in their profession, while three-fifths (61%) claimed they didn’t feel there were enough women in leadership roles or senior-level female role models.
But despite these issues, women remain positive, looking towards a future of the sector in which there is gender equality. Many said they felt stereotypes and other barriers are slowly being broken down, citing this as an age of change and prosperity for women working in tech.
One respondent said: “The tech scene feels so much better; culture in most organisations is changing. There’s still lots to do to ensure equality but you can feel change is coming.”
You might also like: 54% of professional women would pursue a digital career if they knew how to retrain
Several also cited the exciting range of emerging opportunities across the sector, highlighting the growing diversity across the workforce, driven by diversity projects such as Manchester Digital’s Digital Her programme.
“Our research shows that not enough young women are being exposed to the possibilities of a digital or tech career during their education,” said Katie Gallagher, managing director of Manchester Digital. “Further down the line, this is having a huge impact on the diversity of tech teams and the wider talent pipeline.
“We’re firm believers that both industry and education have a part to play in encouraging more young women to consider a career in the tech sector by promoting the breadth of digital opportunities on offer. We’re taking practical steps to do this through our Digital Her programme – a fully funded initiative which aims to end inequality in the digital technology industry by inspiring and encouraging young women across Greater Manchester to consider careers in the sector.”
As part of the programme this year, Manchester Digital has introduced the ‘Mentor Her’ initiative, pairing young women with real role models working in the sector.
“The aim is to show that digital tech is not just a sector for men,” adds Gallagher, “it’s accessible to all, regardless of gender, race or background. Only by encouraging more women to consider roles in digital and tech sectors will we be able to balance the scales when it comes to gender in tech, and create more diverse and inclusive tech teams.”