Do the math: How we’ll get more women in tech

The UK’s tech sector is crying out for female talent; women need to start doing the sums, argues Unruly co-founder Sarah Wood

Whilst in the midst of the inaugural London Technology Week, there is no denying that the tech sector is booming, not only in London but across the UK.

It’s a sector that is creating more and more jobs than ever before and is giving the economy a much needed and innovative boost, but it’s also a sector that is crying out for talent.

To ensure this sector continues to grow, we need a young, diverse workforce; and more than anything, we need more women. The likes of Martha Lane Fox, Sheryl Sandberg, and more recently the founder of Decoded, Kathryn Parsons, have done enormous amounts to raise the profile of women in tech, but it’s still an overwhelmingly male-dominated sector with only 17% of the IT workforce female.

This is a worrying figure, not least because evidence has shown that tech companies with more women on their management teams have a 34% bigger return on investment.

It’s high time we addressed this issue at its source. This is not simply a problem for tech businesses; a lack of women in the world of tech links back to the fact that there is a dearth in the number of girls studying STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) based subjects. In fact, nearly half of mixed state schools had no girls at all studying A Levels Physics in 2011.

This trend cannot continue, so there are a few lessons we can learn to prevent a huge loss in opportunity.

Mind the perception gap

Recent research revealed that more often than not, young women aren’t choosing careers in technology quite simply due to a lack of confidence. According to research from The Targeted Initiative on Science and Mathematics Education, girls often report lower self-confidence in their abilities in STEM subjects, despite no differences in actual abilities or attainment.

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Even the most general stereotypes still linger, with 70% of people around the world associating being a scientist with being a man.

We need to get rid of this archaic attitude if we want to increase the number of women in this area. We need to instill confidence into young women if we want numbers to increase and to do this we need established women in the world of technology to stand up, be vocal and show that there is no difference between male and female capabilities.

Inspiring girls to pursue STEM

More female entrepreneurs in technology and IT need to speak out and ensure they are present and vocal to highlight to young women that women can do just as well as men in this field.

The likes of Belinda Parmer, aka Lady Geek, has done wonders to shatter the “shrink it and pink it” ideology and Parmer has done so much through her writing to make technology more appealing to women.

Established entrepreneurs need to act as mentors for young women to help promote this sector to them. Campaigns such as Your Life which is being run by a group of tech entrepreneurs aims to increase the number of STEM subjects by 50% over the next three years.

Women in tech, like myself, should be encouraging young women to enter this field by offering mentoring and work experience to them to shatter these negative perceptions about their abilities.

Smashing the glass ceiling

It is our responsibility to champion and support the rising generation of women in order to help them smash through the internal but deeply inhibiting glass ceiling of under-confidence.

There is a massive gender imbalance in the world of technology but this is something that is easily changeable. If we can encourage more girls to study STEM subjects by instilling confidence into our young women we will see a whole new dawn in the world of technology and, in turn, the way in which we communicate.

Sarah Wood is co-founder and COO of marketing technology company, Unruly @sarahfwood. Wood is an ambassador for the International Festival for Business 2014 and spoke at the Women First event on ‘Women Inspiring the Economy’.


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