82% of women working in tech never encouraged to take up STEM at school

Manchester Digital is encouraging both educators and businesses to do more to promote STEM subjects to young women in school, following its latest research. The data revealed 82% of women currently working in the technology sector weren’t encouraged to take up a digital or tech subject at any point in their education.

Women make up less than a quarter of the core-STEM workforce in the UK and although the number of women entering STEM roles are increasing, the sector is a long way from gender equality, with respondents in the research noting: “there’s a real disparity that happens at school, when mainly girls are put off studying certain subjects.” As a result, Manchester Digital is calling out for more targeted support and promotion of tech careers for younger women at all levels.

With minimal adoption for STEM throughout education, the ripple effect soon becomes apparent later down the career path. Over two-fifths of respondents (41%) claimed their gender had held them back in their career in the sector, while three-fifths (61%) said they didn’t feel there were enough women in leadership roles or senior-level role models.

Despite these challenges, respondents remained positive about the future of the sector and the closure of gender disparity. Many stated gender stereotypes and barriers are slowly being broken down and we are in an age of change and prosperity for women in tech. One respondent indicated: “The tech scene feels so much better, culture in most organisations is changing, there’s still lots to do to ensure equality but you can feel change is coming.”

Several also outlined the exciting opportunities there are emerging in the sector and the growing diverse workforces which they are expecting to see as a result of diversity projects, like Manchester Digital’s Digital Her programme.

Katie Gallagher, managing director at Manchester Digital, commented: “Our research shows that not enough young women are being exposed to the possibilities of a digital or tech career during their education. Further down the line, this is having a huge impact on the diversity of tech teams and the wider talent pipeline.

“We’re firm believers that both industry and education have a part to play in encouraging more young women to consider a career in the tech sector by promoting the breadth of brilliant opportunities on offer. We’re taking practical steps to do this through our Digital Her programme – a fully funded initiative which aims to end inequality in the digital technology industry by inspiring and encouraging young women across Greater Manchester to consider careers in the sector.

“As part of this, this year we introduced our ‘Mentor Her’ initiative, which is pairing young women with real role models in the tech sector. We’re also continuing to work with businesses and local schools to introduce these young women to the dynamic and exciting roles on offer in the industry.

“The aim is to show that digital tech is not just a sector for men – it’s accessible to all, regardless of gender, race or background. Only by encouraging more women to consider roles in the digital and tech sectors, will we be able to balance the scales when it comes to gender in tech, and create more diverse and inclusive tech teams.”

Through its Digital Her initiative, Manchester Digital has worked with young women across Greater Manchester to provide tangible opportunities and approaches to address the issue of young women entering STEM subjects at school. Over the last 12 months, the organisation has engaged with over 1,200 young women, upskilled 200 educators from over 100 schools, harnessed over 200 role models, and provided 10 work experience opportunities, which accumulated to nearly 500 hours of industry experience.

Due to its success last year, the Digital Her initiative will be scaled up throughout 2020, working also with college students funded by the Institute of Coding. In addition, a new partnership with Code Nation, which will see four young women awarded a fully-funded coding scholarship for 2020.

You can read the Digital Her impact report, highlighting the work Manchester Digital has done to encourage more young women to enter the digital and technology industries, at: https://digitalher.co.uk/impact-report/

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