Only 12.8% of workers in the STEM sector are female

 Only 12.8% of workers in the STEM sector are female

Women currently make up 47% of the UK workforce.

However, only 12.8% careers in the science, technology, engineering and maths sectors (STEM) are held by women.

Furthermore, only six per cent of software engineering positions are occupied by women, according to data in the 2014 'Women in Public Life, the Professions and the Boardroom' House of Commons briefing paper.

Factors contributing to the disparity include a disproportionately low number of women choosing careers in technology and a lack of retention in the industry.

This lack of engagement is resulting in the tech industry missing out on half of the UK workforce – and the industry is already suffering from a lack of talent.

A report by Monster found that almost half (48%) of employers admitted that they found it difficult to recruit for tech-based roles.

But British employees were aware of the shortage, with 54% believing they could get a better job if their technology skills improved and 84% expressing an interest in receiving training in coding, computer language and digital skills.

To engage and encourage more women to enter the tech industry, Nicoll Curtin Recruitment, Fintech and Change recruitment consultancy are trying to close the gender gap in tech through their #CodingAllowed initiative.

The firm aims to equip women with the skills to enter the industry, contributing to developing a future pipeline of talented technologists which includes underrepresented groups.

Senior female technologists from Barclays, Deutsche Bank, EY, Ada’s List and VersaStyle spoke at an event 'Women in Tech: Inspiring the Next Generation' organised by Nicoll Curtin.

Debbie Hope, Director Group Treasury at Barclays Group, argued that the industry is still very male-centric: “Unfortunately the gender split is quite significant, especially in technology and certainly in banking. It’s going to be a challenge for many years to come. But the fact that it’s recognised, and there are diversity and gender initiatives out there, I think is great. We all have a part to play in working with recruitment consultants, schools and universities to give people that opportunity. We need to throw away the stereotypes.”

Shannon Walker, Head of Data Architecture at Deutsche Bank, said that hiring women for their skills and potential, and then providing support and training, would help to combat the issue: “The number of times I’m the only woman in a meeting is incredibly frustrating. We need to make the argument that STEM is more human-oriented, not male or female. Then you start to chip away at that iceberg.”

"When you’re trying to hire people and build a team, it’s not just about looking for technical skills, but also soft skills. When you hire for a diversity of personalities, the diversity of people tends to follow."

Radhika Chadwick, Lead for Digital Advisory practice at EY, believes the gender gap increased with seniority: “At entry-level we have about 50/50 in the gender split. When you look at seniority, by the time somebody gets to partner level, there are significantly fewer women.”

“EY has made a global decision to get behind the gender parity issue. It’s the biggest issue for us as a firm that we support globally. It’s very powerful to have a global brand saying this matters economically. We’re not a charity, we’re a business. This matters economically to us all.”

“In our lifetimes and our children’s lifetimes, there’s an amazing opportunity for technology to be a fabulous leveller for women. It opens up opportunities for women and men to get involved in things they would have never had access to before. To embrace technical skills, and no matter how you use them in life, it will just be something worth doing.”

Anjali Ramachandran, Co-Founder of Ada's List, an online community for women in tech advocates creating a gender inclusive culture, said: “Many company cultures are toxic to women. I’ve known companies where the only extracurricular activities offered are things like playing football, where women don’t necessarily have an interest. I think the responsibility is on companies to change that. If the company culture is toxic, and it causes women to drop out, it’s the company’s loss. And they need to recognise that.

“Women who don’t have a technical background need to know that there are companies out there that will take them, even without full technical training.

“Diverse workforces are more successful, and there’s a lot of research to prove that. You need women and you need people from various ethnic backgrounds. Especially in technology when you’re trying to build a product or service to represent the general population, because they’re the ones buying your product or service.” 

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