Young girls today struggle to find role models in the technology industry. Estimates suggest that only 17% of the tech/ICT workers in the UK are female, despite women constituting almost half of the country’s workforce. How will the female coders of the future recognise a place for themselves in the industry when women are so underrepresented? Change involves schools, government, society and businesses pulling together to empower females to believe the tech industry is a place they can be.
As part of our engagement with this crucial issue, Nominet has signed up to the Tech Talent Charter (TTC), an organisation-led commitment to deliver greater diversity in the tech workforce of the UK. We have pledged to effect meaningful change and will continue to enforce all possible measures to attract more women into our business and industry – and keep them.
We can’t afford for it to be just rhetoric. The Government estimates we need an additional 745,000 workers with digital skills in the coming years to meet the demands of our digital economy, warning that the current gap costs the country £63 billion in lost additional GDP. Unleashing the full potential of the women in the workforce could make significant in-roads into mitigating these gaps.
Above and beyond crisis management is the need to make women feel equally valid and valued in the technology industry. Anecdotally, the reputation of our industry has been one of male competitiveness. The only way to evoke change is from the inside out. Organisations within the industry must create working environments that are supportive of women and conducive to their lifestyle choices and professional ambitions. This can be as simple as understanding the issues that face parents and providing flexible working hours to help them manage their home lives around their work.
We are proud to have women in some of our most senior roles across the company and the gender ratio across our company as a whole is reflective of the UK workforce: we have 43.5% women on our staff. However, when we take a closer look at some of our departments, it’s clear that challenges remain. In our tech team only one in five employees are women and the rate of female applicants for roles is almost negligible.
We work to counter this lack of diversity by celebrating our women where possible to raise awareness of career potential. We also strive to create an environment that celebrates all successes equally, maintains clear internal communication channels and places focus on the professional and personal development of all our staff. None of these have gender bias, but the challenge remains and we have much more to do.
Research shows that part of the challenge is a lack of confidence among girls about their abilities in STEM (science, technology engineering, maths), with self-belief plummeting during adolescence. The impact is plain to see: only 31% of STEM students are female. With this in mind, we reach out to young people without the digital skills that could pave the way to a good career through projects such as Nominet Digital Neighbourhood. During the past year, we have trained young people across the country with digital skills before pairing them with local SMEs in need of help. The young people gain skills and work experience and the SMEs gain real commercial benefit.
Our outreach extends to supporting the admirable work of the Prince’s Trust and helping young people get into tech. We also sit on the board of the Micro:bit Foundation to teach kids to code as a means of preparing them for a digital future. In line with this, our Emerging Technology team has been working on creating resources to support teachers in using the micro:bit in their lessons. These early experiences of coding provide children of both genders with the tools they need should they choose to pursue a career in technology. We hope the next generation will be better equipped and aware of the possibilities for them in the IT sector.
Correcting the gender imbalance in our industry could be the gamechanger for our country as it teeters on the edge of a skills crisis. Nominet will play whatever part we can to address this issue. Signing up to the TTC is a very public way to reaffirm our commitment to gender diversity in the workplace – and it is a commitment we will back up with action and positive change.