It goes without saying that we need more women in digital roles. So, today, on International Women’s Day, I was delighted to take part in an event that wasn’t just about saying something, but about doing something to make real progress.
What’s clear is that tech has an image problem. When digital transformation should be opening up opportunities, it seems that, instead, women are encountering barriers at all stages of their lives. Barriers which send out a message which couldn’t be further from the truth – digital roles aren’t for you.
This isn’t a new issue, and many people – men and women – are doing important work to change this perception. Today’s event was about bringing that expertise and passion together into one place with over 70 people from industry, the third sector and government coming together to really look hard at what these barriers are. They considered what actions we can take collectively to tackle them and the impact they have on girls and women throughout their lives and careers. Our chair for today was Eileen Burbidge, a woman who knows a thing or two about what’s required to succeed in tech!
The messages were loud and clear – that there’s a lot of good work going on but it’s just not making enough of an impact. Looking at different stages of a woman’s life, from early years right through to working in the industry, there were some common themes that came out.
There was widespread recognition that better coordination between industry and government could make a huge difference in raising awareness of the wide range of digital roles available. We also need to listen carefully to the up and coming generation of girls about what interests and influences them. But, perhaps, the biggest message was that there is no single answer – we can only make a difference by making targeted interventions at different stages of girls’ education and progression into work.
After an event like this, it can be all too easy to lose momentum, failing to capitalise on the energy and shared understanding that’s been reached. Today’s participants won’t get off so lightly! I’ve set them the challenge to keep working up their best ideas, and how they can be turned into reality. I’ve asked that these ideas be shared with me and a panel of experts in a few months’ time, so we can keep the foot on the pedal and turn ideas into actions.
I would like to thank everyone that has been involved today and for their ongoing commitment. Working together, we have a big task ahead of us, but I can’t think of a better day than today to set the wheels in motion. My take home message from today? Simple, digital roles are for everyone.