Girls in ICT, which takes place annually every fourth Thursday in April, matters to the data and analytics world because of the digital skills gap that threatens to choke the current expansion of the industry. From techUK to CA Technologies, 27th April saw a range of events and ongoing initiatives which should not only be replicated, but also need to become ongoing and embedded into corporate culture.
The statistics are alarming. A report assembled by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development reports that, among a sample of 1,000 women with a bachelor degree in Europe, only 29 hold an ICT-related degree, compared to 95 men, and only four actually work in the digital sector. Globally, women hold only 24% of all digital sector jobs and, in developing contexts, men are 2.7 times more likely to work in the digital sector. Men are also 7.6 times more likely than women to hold occupations that require specific ICT skills. The report was published to coincide with this year's Girls in ICT day, which is an initiative of the International Telecommunications Union.
This divergence appears to happen early on during the education process. Research conducted by the WISE campaign to encourage women into STEM and published in its “Not for people like me" report, identified an issue with the way careers in the industry and the tasks involved are talked about. In an issue typically replicated across the data and analytics industry, this approach often doesn't attract girls. A more effective approach is to get girls to look at the kind of person they are and then map their attributes against roles.
TechUK has developed a bespoke version of WISE’s People Like Me resources for girls to consider careers in tech. It shows cool, young women demonstrating the range of roles on offer and the skills required.
On Thursday, CA Technologies ran its own People Like Me event where mothers invited their 11- to 16-year-old daughters along to encourage them to consider careers within technology and unlock their daughters’ potential. The move was part of a major expansion of the firm’s CSR programme in Europe, called Create Tomorrow, which is intended to help address the chronic skills gap in STEM and its particular prevalence among young women and girls.
Julie Baxter, VP support at CA Technologies, said: “The subject of girls in ICT has gained more recognition of late, but greater action still needs to be taken to make a difference to the industry’s gender disparity. The number of women in key roles in the tech industry has remained roughly unchanged for 10 years [at around 30%]. While the number of girls taking STEM subjects is going up, more should be done to fill the chronic skills gap the industry is seeing with a diverse workforce.”
Baxter added: “This is not just about equal opportunities for men and women. Evidence shows that diverse workforces create a better work environment and foster more creativity and innovation, as well as improving the bottom line. The government has recognised the under-representation of women in these careers and new initiatives are in place to tackle this. In particular, it requires technology bodies and enterprises to get involved during education to define the journey girls are going on as they consider their careers. Lastly, there is a role to be played by the parents, supporting daughters that have an interest in STEM subjects, but are worried about entering a male-dominated environment.”
DataIQ is running its own event on the subject with the CXX Panel during the DataIQ Summit on 24th May at 14.20. Featuring a facilitated discussion involving Robbie Burgess of RELX and Fedelma Good of Barclays, it will consider whether gender plays a part - upside or downside - in the way women are recruited into the data and analytics industry and in the nature of the skills they bring to bear. For more information and to book your ticket, go here.