“Female tech staff in decline in the UK” – it’s strange that we see permutations of this headline again and again, and we don’t seem to be getting anywhere. I’ve recently seen a number of articles entitled “a letter to my 22 year old self” – lots of people my age and beyond looking back at their young selves and dispensing retrospective advice about careers, life and love. It got me thinking about whether I would go back and change my path now, given the chance to do so. For me, I don’t think I would – all the decisions I’ve made (although some of them have felt a little uncomfortable at the time!), have led me to where I am now – an amazing job in a brilliant organisation, and a full and happy life outside of work… That said – I’ve always been a bit of a closet geek – excited by the latest technology, and the potential it has to make things better, so maybe my career would have been different if I’d been encouraged to get really immersed in technology from a young age.
In the absence of the opportunity to go back in time, what else can we do? Well we have to get the messages out there earlier and more effectively. Girls are still being turned off IT related subjects at an early age (as explored by my colleague Dawn Elliott in her recent blog post “Why can’t we get the gender balance “right” in IT?” so of course it’s going to be less appealing as a career for them in the longer term. I don’t have the silver bullet to fix this issue, but I do think that all of us working in the IT industry have a responsibility to do our bit to bolster the image of IT as a choice for young women, as referred to in a recent article written by our Executive Chairman, Christine Hodgson. There are some brilliant initiatives and organisations out there which are working to showcase IT in a really positive light, including “IT Counts”, an inspiring youth-led campaign developed by students on the IT Management for Business (ITMB) course at Manchester Business School.
Initiatives like this definitely need to be encouraged, and there is always more that can be done, but it’s not all bad news… Our ratios for graduates joining our UK business bucks the industry wide trend of 25% female entrants – 38% and counting this year! I’ve also been really heartened to see a good number of female entrants for our Capgemini Super Techies Show, with the very first entry submitted by a female techie! I know from speaking to a number of female techies in the business that they would have jumped at the chance to be involved with something like this had it been around when they were at university, so I’d encourage any girls at uni with even tendencies towards closet geekery to have a look at the case study and submit an entry. The solutions don’t need to be wall to wall coding – they can be focussed on the enabling capability of technology when it comes to business challenges.
And for my part, I’m going to keep encouraging my three year old daughter when she “borrows” my iPhone, and taps away on her toy computer, and make sure she knows that IT isn’t just for boys. Watch this space – Capgemini Super Techies Show 2029 – here she comes!