Do we want to live in a digital world built only by men? In the UK, the technology sector is one of the fastest growing industries and yet women make up just 16.8% of the workforce. Experts warn that we need to hire almost one million more women in order to reach gender parity, or face the constant challenge of digital innovations that are unrepresentative of the world they impact.
Unfortunately, the lack of diversity is not a simple hiring matter. For some of the more technical roles we recruit for at Nominet, we receive very few female applicants. The pipeline is poor, with statistics warning that just 31% of STEM degree students are women as research shows girls losing interest in technology while still at school, for a variety of reasons, including a lack of visible role models.
This is something that Nominet is trying to change. In 2017, we signed up to the Tech Talent Charter, an organisation-led commitment to deliver greater diversity in the UK tech workforce. Our activity to this end over the past two years has included hosting workshops to share best practice across the industry, reviewing our recruitment approaches to ensure we are appealing to diverse applicants, and actively promoting our ‘women in tech’ to demonstrate the breadth of roles and opportunities available across the industry. Importantly, these profiles of our staff prove that there is no blueprint for females in the industry; many join us from unexpected backgrounds and are attracted to the sector for different reasons.
Consider Lucy Taylor, a Data Analyst who was a dancer until an injury forced her to find a new career. Despite an initial lack of interest in the industry – she admits “I was scared of computers and had no interest in technology” as a child – Lucy undertook a Business and IT degree and got hooked on data. “I love my job,” she says, “I really enjoy being able to dig into data and understand what it’s telling me.” Lucy’s work is predominantly on the Protective DNS contract we have with the National Cyber Security Centre, supporting its Active Cyber Defence programme that is tackling cyber attacks to improve national resilience.
By contrast, our Researcher Maryam Kamali was captivated by computers from a young age and is one of four siblings all working in technology and engineering. Today, she works on Nominet’s autonomous vehicle (AV) initiatives, including the recently concluded DRIVEN project which, as part of a consortium, trialled a fleet of AVs on the roads of Oxford and London. Maryam “loves being able to see the impact of my work” and enjoys the dynamism of the industry: “no day is the same when you are working on problems that no one may have ever considered before, and certainly never solved.”
Crafting new methodology to handle digital challenges was the initial spark that shifted Ruth Trevor-Allen from a physics degree to software engineering while a student. “As soon as I did my first bit of programming, I knew this was what I had been looking for,” she says. “I like solving problems and building stuff that works.” Ruth, now an Analyst Developer, lists tenacity and enthusiasm as two important attributes for her role, while “it also helps if you can communicate well and are able to see the bigger picture.”
‘Soft’ skills such as these required in business are crucial for our CISO Cath Goulding too. She may be a prominent cyber security specialist today, but had originally wanted to work in architecture, before a housing slump put her off. She studied maths at University and applied to GCHQ “because it sounded cool”, although admits that “working in IT wasn’t considered a professional career back then”. She urges young women and school girls not to dismiss the tech industry as “all about programming. Yes, there are technical elements, but so many jobs within IT and cyber are about human involvement and interaction.”
These thoughts are echoed by Julia Cannings, who works as a Senior Project Manager and has been within the IT industry her whole career. “Some people assume you have to be a maths boffin to get through the door in tech – that’s not true,” she says. Julia’s interest in computing started in childhood because using a computer was one of the few things she found easy at school, due to her severe dyslexia. She lists her mum as her role model, a “fiercely independent” woman who carved out a successful career in a male-dominated media and fashion industry.
And the roll call of extraordinary women in tech continues across our blog – such as Technical Data Scientist Bryony Hill and Arife Vural-Butcher, a DNS Analyst – with more in the pipeline. Sharing these stories is just one of the many ways we can all work to promote diversity in this influential and hugely exciting industry to ensure the digital future is one that we can all recognise ourselves within.
Share these stories with the women in your life and help us spread the word about the exciting and diverse careers available in tech. Find out more about the opportunities available at Nominet on our careers page.