Next Tech Girls: The future is female
Empiric Empiric

Next Tech Girls: The future is female

Published 03/06/2020

Next Tech Girls: The future is female

“I thought that working with technology only meant coding, but it doesn’t; there are many other jobs available that use technology without the use of code.”

This was the observation of 14 year old Hamsa after her two week technology work experience with Next Tech Girls, a programme funded by Empiric, which aims to increase the number of women in tech by organising fulfilling technology work experience for female students, encouraging them to pursue a future digital career.

Hamsa is one of over 850 girls to have been placed in a tech work experience with partner companies over the last four years, and reflects the very reason the Next Tech Girls programme was set up; to dispel the myth that technology careers are not for women.

Even at the time of writing this article, the number of women employed in the technology workforce still hovers around the 17% mark and has done so for the last decade. This is despite the fact that the UK is home to some of the highest funded tech startups in Europe, creating new jobs and desperate for tech talent, a shortage of which costs businesses some £1.5 billion a year.

It is not only the girls that have expanded their knowledge through the programme; we have learned a great deal too.

Girls are interested in tech

Numerous businesses and programmes have had to pivot their models to an on-line offering and Next Tech Girls is no exception. Having worked with the international travel company, Expedia, over the past four years, we knew they would be amongst the first to step up to the challenge.

So, this week Expedia is hosting a virtual work experience for some 30 Next Tech Girls around the country, providing young girls with invaluable insights into tech careers and the numerous opportunities available to them.

This is a third more on the programme than originally planned, simply because more girls than we were expecting, signed up. When tech is presented in a way that engages young females, they are interested.

When girls are engaged in purpose, they are more likely to engage in tech

Although a gendered concept, girls are still seen as more attracted to the caring professions than boys, and this is reinforced by boys being less so. Researchers point out that this may be due to the low social value and rewards associated with such careers, and thus we come full circle; boys’ choices, predominantly STEM subjects, are not being taken up by girls.

But when tech is given purpose, perceptions change. Another Next Tech Girl, Kelly aged 15, initially didn't think tech was a career for her, but her work experience with GiveVision, a Wayra Telefonica startup, showed her otherwise.

“Seeing the love and passion that GiveVision have, it's just been amazing” she told us. Her aspirations to be a forensics scientist or criminal psychologist are now taking a path that includes tech.

This realisation could not come at a better time. In January, the World Economic Forum in Davos put the spotlight on purpose driven leadership and climate responsibility. Tech companies have responded, looking to solve the world’s biggest problems with impact firmly on the agenda, and women are increasingly seen as the driving force behind the ‘circular economies’ and ‘donut economics’ being adopted by cities and businesses around the world.

Girls are still experiencing gender stereotyping when it comes to careers in technology

Yet, in addition to the gendered stereotypes of caring professions, even schools and the curriculum show a bias towards men in the STEM subjects.

PWC’s Women in Tech report found that only 16% of girls compared to 33% of boys have had technology suggested to them as a career.

And earlier this year, teacher training charity, Teach First, carried out a study which found no mention of any women in the Department for Education’s ‘biology, chemistry and physics subject content’ or its ‘combined science: GCSE subject content’. These had both been updated in 2019.  They did however contain mentions of 14 male scientists or materials named after them.

If the very curriculum which provides the foundations for future careers, only illustrates successful males in your chosen subject, is it any wonder you might think it is not the career for you?

When girls see role models, they see their future

This stereotyping continues with the current day depiction of tech role models. The same report from PWC found that 78% of students could not name a famous female working in technology.

This was reflected in our own feedback responses from girls after their work experience. When asked if they knew of any female role models in technology prior to the working week, over 90% responded ‘no'. After their work experience, 72% named their mentor as their female technology role model.

If the last few weeks have shown us anything it is that the future is digital. Imagine a Covid-19 world without digital access to food, finances and family. Instead, all this and more has been made possible by technology accelerating us into a reality we have been both debating and dithering over, and now find ourselves grasping with both hands. Encouraging girls to embrace that reality is never more important than now.

By Marie-Clare Fenech

Marie-Clare heads up the NextTechGirls partnership programme. She spent 23 years in Technology Recruitment and Executive Search as a Board Director and Operations & Business Development Head, and is heavily invested in the future of female talent. She was educated in Italy and graduated with a Bachelor's Honours degree in Psychology in the UK.

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Empiric is a dynamic technology and transformation recruitment agency specialising in data, digital, cloud, security and transformation. We supply technology and change recruitment services to businesses looking for both contract and permanent professionals.

Next Tech Girls has been created by Empiric and delivers a free CSR initiative by partnering with companies to deliver tech-focused work experiences in the UK, providing school girls (years 10-12) with insights into tech careers and the numerous opportunities available to them. Not only does this inspire young students, but it helps raise awareness of the gender imbalance in the industry and promotes a culture of inclusivity.

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