Why figures for women in the digital sector don’t add up
- Published on Friday, 24 March 2017 06:00
Women make up just 18% of Scotland’s tech workforce. We take a look below at what can be done to encourage more Scottish women to target a career in digital.
There’s no one answer when it comes to working out why young women don’t follow the signs leading to a career in the digital sector.
On the face of it, a job in the technology industry should be as big an attraction for women as it is for men.
Across the UK, the average digital salary is £50k, almost 36% higher than the average advertised salary.
In Edinburgh, over the last three years, salaries in the digital industry have risen by 26%.
In the majority of cases, technology businesses have a young workforce who typically enjoy high job satisfaction levels.
Added to that, we’re talking about a sector which offers excellent opportunities for females to progress to senior management and board level, partly due to the fact that there is such a shortage of candidates.
In short, the message is that the tech sector is an ideal career choice for young, talented women.
But as Sara Dodd, Head of Curriculum and Accreditation at CodeClan, Scotland’s first accredited skills academy, points out, that message isn’t getting across and more needs to be done to raise awareness of the opportunities available.
“It’s really all about education. At the moment, for many girls, a career in tech isn’t on their horizon.There are a variety of reasons for that. Sometimes it’s down to a lack of understanding from parents who view the digital sector as a ‘new’ industry and maybe not as secure as what is seen as a vocational career like law or accountancy.
“We need parents, teachers, careers advisors and schools in general to develop a better understanding of the industry and the salary, status and progression levels it offers.
“There’s also a dearth of young female role models who can inspire young women. That doesn’t necessarily need to be at board level but women who are demonstrating their tech and coding skills in professional roles, on the technical side creating software or mobile applications or in creative industries like film or animation.”
CodeClan itself has taken a creative approach to gender representation in the digital workforce and, in just 18 months, has increased the intake of women on its programming courses from just 5% to its current level of 28%.
“Our aspiration is to push that up to 40% which we definitely believe is achievable.
“We need to highlight the fact that the tech industry is very good at offering the flexibility which some women need, whether that’s flexible working hours, being family friendly or the ability to work from home, factors which can be useful in helping women progress into more senior roles.”
Sara’s thoughts on improving awareness of opportunities in the wider digital sector are echoed by Dr Romana Ramzan, a lecturer in Game Design at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU). Alongside her teaching and research work, Dr Ramzan is a strong advocate for diversity in the games industry.
“The problems really start at an early age. We need to target younger girls at primary school level with the message that a career in the games sector is not just feasible but offers an excellent opportunity for them.
“By secondary school, it’s too late, as they’ll have made choices about the subjects they’re taking and they’ll often be more likely to suffer from peer pressure and less keen to stand out from the crowd.
“When I speak to young girls about the gaming industry, my message is very much about celebrating their uniqueness and being different from the crowd – school is a temporary thing but the right career can be for life.
“Statistics show that nearly 50% of gamers are female. Sometimes even women are surprised about that so we need to educate parents and teachers - especially guidance teachers – and make sure they’re aware of the possibilities gaming offers women as a career.
“The UK’s creative media sector is highly significant in terms of employment and, within that, games is now the fourth largest employer after TV, film and radio providing jobs for more than 10,000 people.
“When companies are recruiting they need to look closely at their marketing material and how they word their job adverts to make sure their messaging emphasises the diversity of the sector and the opportunities which exist for women.
“At GCU, we operate outreach programmes with schools and encourage children to participate in workshops at the university. That’s all aimed at addressing misconceptions about the industry and about the stereotypical geeky gamer always being a boy.
“It’s great to see young girls eyes light up when they understand that there are women who are programmers who are creating highly successful games. This is a dynamic, creative industry and we want to help them understand that it offers them an excellent career opportunity.”
The above blog post has been made possible through the generous support of Creative Clyde and the named contributors.
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