Bridging the gender divide can help close the UK skills gap

In our latest blog, celebrating the launch of the TechFuture Women’s Network, Jacqueline de Rojas, Area VP of Northern Europe at Citrix and President, techUK looks at getting more women into technology careers and the business benefits.

Lamentation over Britain’s skills gap rarely escapes the media. But where Britain continues to fall short in this debate is on how women could be a significant factor in its solution. Britain cannot hope to resolve its skills gap if we continue to expect and accept that only half the population makes up the significant majority in these professions.

Benefits to the business

Diversity and gender balance within a business is really important. Research by Gallup found that a gender-diverse workforce can improve a company’s bottom line, not to mention provide more diverse ideas and insight. A recent McKinsey whitepaper studying gender equality in French multinational firm Sodexo analysed data from 50,000 managers across 90 entities around the world, and found clear evidence that teams with a male–female ratio between 40 and 60 per cent produce results that are more sustained and predictable than those of unbalanced teams.

'Bridging the gender gap is the key to our industry’s future success', Jacqueline de Rojas
‘Bridging the gender gap is the key to our industry’s future success’. Jacqueline de Rojas

Bridging the divide

The technology industry is essential to the UK and is worth around £100bn to the economy. To fulfil its potential, the country needs access to a much greater talent pool – unachievable if we see a continued low representation of women in the industry.

For a start, research has repeatedly shown that girls tend to lack confidence in their capacity for technology and science subjects, even as young as age 10 or 11. Schools must need to do their best to dispel myths that these are “boys’ subjects”, instead highlighting girls’ achievements and promoting tangible benefits such as higher average wages in STEM careers.

A collaborative effort

By changing the language that we use to promote the technology industry from the dreaded ‘three letter acronyms’ towards more stories about business impact and outcomes, we can make this sector much less of a closed club. We are all guilty of blinding the market with features, version numbers and techno-speak, which serves to lock talented people out.

Exploring internship programmes is a crucial means for opening up opportunities for young people to pursue highly successful careers in the technology sector – real enterprise experience will be key to encouraging more women to choose careers in the STEM industries. Further, as role models, senior women in technology must not only articulate what women in this sector can achieve but also communicate the challenges they have faced and overcome throughout their career – to inspire and motivate the next generation.

Tackling the gender divide in technology is too often seen as a feminist agenda rather than a business agenda. But without tackling the culture that reinforces the skills gap for 50 per cent of the population, the UK can never be a leading source of technology innovation. Only by investing in our future female workforce are businesses guaranteed the necessary manpower, skills and diversity of ideas for future success.

Britain already has the credentials and the potential to become a global leader in technology. Bridging the gender gap is the key to our industry’s future success and to Britain becoming a digital nation of significance – In the process it also avoids a potentially devastating digital desert.

Are you a woman in working in tech? Join the The TechFuture Women’s Network and help us mentor students and transform perceptions of technology and build a more diverse and digital-savvy workforce.