The number of working women in technology is significantly lower than most other UK work sectors. Just 17% of those working in Technology and 14% of the people working in STEM in the UK are female. It’s clear to see that women are under-represented in STEM roles. The campaign for International Woman’s Day shares the message that A balanced world is a better world. But how can we help forge a more gender-balanced world?
Why are There so Few Woman in STEM?
STEM at School
There is a noticeable gap between girls and boys that study STEM subjects beyond GCSE (35% of girls and 80% of boys). At university, there are only 25% of graduates in STEM subjects who are women and 52% are males.
STEM subjects at school are a predominately male dominated area. This turns girls away from the idea of STEM subjects as having a class full of boys may not be the ideal place for them. It has been shown that girls are more attracted to HEED subjects to pursue a career in health, primary education and domestic as most girls get job satisfaction out of helping people. In school we aren’t taught about the potential of STEM in the workplace and how it can change the world. Coding is are associated with gaming and big hefty machines. School doesn’t mention how AI is being developed to predict hundreds of illnesses from single blood test or how innovative engineers have built stronger buildings, safer skyways and healthier environments.
73% of students can’t name a famous female working in technology, while 66% are able to name a famous male. Girls need role models to have something and someone they aspire to. A relatable figure creates comfort and shows girls that they can invest in STEM because they’ve seen success from people like them.
Minority in the Workplace
78% of women in STEM who work in a mostly male dominated workplace experience sexual harassment. This discrimination can cause women to leave STEM related jobs. With a lack of women in this workplace it could be harder for them to speak up as they’d feel as if they can’t talk to a man after experiencing harassment. A lack of women in a certain workplace can also be off putting to women as they might feel as if they haven’t got women to relate to or socialise with. 40% of women have also said that they have been passed over when promotions have been offered to someone less qualified than them of the opposite sex. They feel they haven’t been given any opportunity to step up from the position they are currently in and wonder if they have to leave their employer to be promoted.
What can be Done?
Encourage STEM to Girls
As a young woman myself I know how important it is to be doing something within my interests, and that can change or help the world or other people for the better. In school I wish I would have been told how my creativity doesn’t mean I have to do art or photography. I thought that because I like performing that means I have to do drama or because I love writing I should stick to literature, you don’t need to do that in computer science, media or maths. Schools need to show young girls how their interests can fit into STEM subjects and the opportunities and jobs that can arise. Girls like me don’t realise that there are careers out there that can give them the passion and drive they’re looking for. Because we’re simply not told about them.
More role models in STEM
Having more female role models for girls in STEM would help to close the gender gap. If girls can see more women in STEM succeeding it would motivate them and make them think “I can do that!”. It’s easy to get knocked down when there aren’t more real life examples to motivate and push girls to reach their full STEM potential.
Improve job Satisfaction and Close the Gender pay gap
25% of women claim they want to negotiate for a higher salary, as they are stereotyped as willing to settle for a lower salary. The gender pay gap is an ongoing issue and is a highlight on International Women’s Day. Still having a pay gap in 2019 is unacceptable and working to change this is crucial and will encourage women to go for jobs they are genuinely interested in and will improve overall job satisfaction.
However, the gender pay gap in the tech industry is actually smaller than in other sectors, research reveals. Big tech businesses are also eager to close the gender pay gap with the likes of Intel and Salesforce.com pledging to pay the same wage to women and men doing the same work. With women with less than two years of experience better at negotiating pay than their male coworkers and a continuing skills shortage in the tech sector, it seems that the only way is up for rates of pay for female techies.
The Future of Women in Tech
The UK economy would benefit from an extra £2.6 billion each year if we increase the number of women working in tech to fill the prevalent IT skills shortage. Improved communication skills, innovative ideas and boosted morale were named as the core benefits most likely to come from hiring more women in the workforce, according to a report from Nominet. The future for women in tech depends on the IT industry’s ability to inspire young women to study computing and technology throughout their school careers, and then go on to apprenticeships and degrees in these subjects.
We support the race to close the gender gap and are proud to be a Microsoft Partner who work hard to highlight and encourage women in tech. Their DigiGirlz program gives young girls opportunities to learn about careers in technology, connect with Microsoft employees, and participate in hands-on computer and technology workshops. This is an immensely beneficial program and we hope to see girl flourish in the STEM industry.