IT Brief UK - Technology news for CIOs & IT decision-makers
Story image
IWD 2024: Why representation is key to inspiring the next generation of tech-talent
Fri, 8th Mar 2024

The number of women in the technology sector is on the decline.

According to figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the number of women in the industry reduced by 17,000 between Q4 of 2022 and Q1 of 2023 and again by 3,000 between Q1 2023 and Q2 2023.

More widely, though, it’s concerning to learn that female representation in the sector has plateaued over the last decade, with many choosing to leave due to reasons like the access to fewer opportunities, imposter syndrome and company culture. One of the primary reasons for their exit, though, is often down to a lack of female role models or mentors.

By opening up the conversation about women in tech and the capabilities we bring, we can showcase the important role women have to play in the technology sector this International Women’s Day (8 March).

‘The idea of programming as a career never crossed my mind’

A PWC report on women in tech revealed that one of the fundamental problems we face in this ongoing debate for equality in tech is the lack of advice in schools on careers in technology. It’s cited that while 33% of male respondents say they’ve had a career in technology suggested to them, a mere 16% of females said the same. And this was very much the case for me.

I was raised in a small Welsh town called Ebbw Vale, known for its steel industry. By nature, the careers advice was lacking, and the limited guidance we did have often pushed us towards traditional jobs in hairdressing, factory work, retail or office jobs.
I had a computer at home, and although we recognised that they would play a pivotal role in the future, the idea of programming as a career never crossed my mind.

Websites back then were incredibly rudimentary, often lacking aesthetics and user-friendliness, but even in those early days, I grew intrigued about their potential.

While my school had a Computer Studies course, it wasn’t well-publicised. In fact, I only became aware of the course during my final year, by which point I felt it was too late.

As I grew older, I convinced myself that it was too late to begin because others – mostly my male counterparts – had been programming since their teens. Media reports also emphasised that the tech industry was booming, driven by male minds, which further fueled my belief that securing a tech job, even with the right qualifications, would be challenging.

Smaller towns, particularly those outside of cities, often used to have this notion that girls should focus on typing and office skills. So, after leaving school, I worked in various administrative jobs – despite my burgeoning love for the tech space.

This mindset, and the upbringing I had during those early years, is part of the problem many women – even today – face. To some extent, we become our own barrier to success, and one of the main reasons is that we have few examples of female role models in the industry.

The importance of role models

During some reading one evening, I discovered a female scientist called Margaret Hamilton. Among her impressive list of accomplishments, she served as the director of the Software Engineering Division at the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory, where they went on to develop onboard flight software for NASA’s Apollo programme.

She proved that a career in this market was possible but also that you should never be defined or held back by your age or gender.

Inspired, I finally found my feet in the industry after I landed a job with a small design agency – initially, this was an administrative role, but it allowed me to tap into my creative abilities. This stepping stone then led me to embark on a graphic design distance learning course, and from there, I used online tutorials to start building small websites for acquaintances and gaining word-of-mouth clients. Then, finally, in 2017, I took the plunge into web development by enrolling in an evening course at Cardiff University.

As a female, I’ve had to go out there and pave a career in this space for myself – taking evening courses and seeking extra opportunities to develop. Like Margaret, I pushed through adversity and prevailed.

Reaching your dreams

My curiosity drives me, and I am excited to be at a company like Zengenti, which always encourages me to delve deeper, explore further and ask questions. Here, myself and my female colleagues, many of whom also share roles like UX designer and web developer, are no different to the other members of the team.

As long as you show your curiosity, have an appreciation for design, a passion for problem-solving and resilience, it doesn’t matter who you are.

If you’re contemplating a career in a STEM field, I encourage you to go for it. Comparable to when I was younger, there is now an abundance of opportunities for women from all backgrounds to shoot for.

Thanks to the internet, there’s also more information than ever before about exploring a role in this space and developing your own skills, even in your own time.

International Women’s Day is the perfect opportunity for our female tech community to raise our voices, shout about what we love about this vibrant and ever-changing industry, and share our stories with a network who desperately want to see representation. Pursue your ambitions, and remember, not trying at all is a guaranteed failure.