On Friday, I attended a TechUK event about how to support rewarding careers for women in technology. Being able to draw on skills from the widest possible talent pool is an issue for everyone who wants our sector to be a successful engine of growth but, disappointingly, only 16% of the IT workforce is female.

The keynote presenter was Mark Dearnley, chief digital information officer, HMRC. He showed a great statistic, that 40% of senior IT managers in HMRC are women, but Mark is disappointed that there’s only one female IT professional in his senior leadership team. It was clear that improving the gender balance is personally important to Mark, and he explained some of things that HMRC’s doing to address the imbalance, including mixed sex interview panels, ‘unconscious bias’ training, family friendly policies, and growing apprentice and graduate schemes.

After the keynote Mark joined four other digital leaders to debate ideas with the audience about how to engage more girls in digital careers. The collective experience in the room, led by leaders from Citrix, Go ON UK, Dell and the founder of Women Who Code UK, created some interesting discussion. You can see a video of the event, and here are some of the talking points:

  • Show young creative people how the internet can be harnessed to solve problems and improve our lives. Internet-enable community projects help.
  • Inspire people with a maths background by showing that IT is about finding exciting solutions to problems.
  • Interest rockets in local areas when there are awards for achievement, which creates role models.
  • Don’t under-estimate the power of TV programme like The Big Bang Theory. Hyper intelligent role models don’t have to be real-life people!
  • Women can feel like imposters in an all male environment, and support from mentors inside a company or externally, like a ‘women who code’ mentor, will help
  • Shift the norm in schools to ‘reading, writing, arithmetic and digital’
  • Encourage schools to look at Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) to enable better tablets in the classroom and increase participation in tech subjects.

After attending the event, I spoke to Capgemini’s schools outreach director about what I heard, and was proud to hear about what we’re doing.

  • Our national schools outreach programme works with over 5,000 young people annually
  • We ran a computer science competition to support the national IT curriculum in schools, with exam body AQA
  • Workshops about using technology to solve problems and make life easier or better, cheaper or more productive, both with MyKindaCrowd and inhouse
  • A pilot with primary schools to introduce all year-groups to technology and coding
  • Invitations to 6th form girls to attend in-house women’s events with inspirational speakers
  • ‘Maths at Work’ events for girls who drop maths after GCSE
  • Support for Apps for Good national programme teaching teachers to develop Apps with their students as part of the curriculum
  • Bringing young people into our office to give young people a taste of tech in the workplace
  • Smart young technologists from the UK take part in Capgemini’s Super Techie reality TV game show that’s broadcast on India’s leading Business News Channel and via YouTube, where the show has an audience of over 7 million.

Rebecca J Thomas
Marketing manager, Capgemini