Closing the skills gap, in the UK and beyond

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This is a contributed post from Sharon Clews, director of people and talent management at techUK. 

There's no denying that the tech industry is facing an ever growing skills gap, which, if it goes unaddressed, will threaten the future growth of our industry and impact the wider economy.

One of the ways we can start to really move the needle is by increasing diversity within our sector. Take women in tech. By excluding half the population we are dramatically reducing the talent pool and potentially placing artificial limits on growth and innovation.

This is not just a UK problem. We have linked our women in tech programme to the European eSkills for Jobs campaign to bridge the digital skills gap across Europe.  By encouraging more young women to study and consider careers in STEM subjects we can start to fill the immediate demand, and build a skills pipeline for the European digital economy of tomorrow.

We know that diverse teams are more productive, efficient and collaborative. This is a case where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. If we can get this right, there are so many potential benefits.

It's a positive step that this issue is now openly acknowledged across the industry. However, we need to do more than just talk about the problem. Now is the time to act. This means addressing corporate culture and reviewing company processes to minimise the effects of unconscious bias.  

Unconscious bias can impact upon the culture of an organisation and affect decision-making with regard to the recruitment and promotion of key talent.  By training teams to recognise their own unconscious biases, organisations can positively impact their culture and make better people decisions.

We need to drive change across the industry and at all career stages, but there are some clear areas where we can measure change:

  • We want to see more women in FTSE 350 boardrooms, and have called on businesses and search firms to include female talent in their shortlists
  • We challenge businesses to offer best practice relating to their female population focused on attracting, retaining and sustaining talent at all levels in their businesses.
  • We want to make it easier for women returning to the workforce after a career break, to ensure talent and experience isn't lost

If we can make a difference even just in these three areas, we can finally start to see all the welcome efforts start to have a positive effect.

Following my passion for technology was one of the best decisions I ever made

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In this contributed article, Annabel Sunnucks, intern at CA Technologies, discusses her decision to pursue a career in technology and the advice she would give anyone considering a career in STEM.

Technology is something I have been passionate about for as long as I can remember, so it wasn't a difficult decision to study management and IT at Lancaster University. I'm often asked why I chose this subject and the answer is simple - technology has never failed to amaze me and fortunately I have been in the right generation to be able to keep up and observe the impact that it has on the world.

For me, the most attractive aspect of technology is problem solving. Problem solving is a challenge I have always loved - from completing puzzles at home through to programming at university. The potential of where we could be in terms of technology in 50 years' time fascinates me, and it's exciting to know that being involved in technology allows me to take my career in any direction.

There is an unfortunate perception that a career in tech is not a typical choice for a woman, so over the years I have been asked many times who inspired me - but it's difficult to choose just one person.

I have a lot of female role models in my family, my mother being the obvious one to look up to, but also others like my aunt who is the Director of Communications at a large technology company. I'm fortunate to have a very supportive family so my inspiration to be as successful and as happy as the women within my family has been my motivation to pursue something I love.

When it comes to women in tech, Marissa Mayer is someone I admire. Marissa's passion and dedication has made her into a successful business woman and it's great to see a female CEO with such influence. Since I joined CA Technologies earlier this year, I've been lucky enough to meet many women in leadership positions, who have also proved that technology doesn't have to be a male-dominated industry.

I strongly believe positive female role models are important to drive interest in STEM subjects, but there is also a need for a change in the curriculum. Whilst there have been positive steps towards educating students at a younger age about technology and engineering, I still believe more can be done. Pupils develop their passion for a subject when they're younger, which then feeds into the choices they make during higher education, because they feel more engaged and prepared.

The one piece of advice I would give any woman considering a career in STEM would be to simply go for it! Often, people assume that if you study IT at university, it means that you will then be stuck behind a computer writing code all day. But in reality, the possibilities are endless and the levels of potential are huge. STEM offers versatility that can't be compared to any other subject area and lets you choose many different roles and paths, from a NASA Curiosity Driver to a theme park designer.

I wouldn't want anyone at university or even in their careers to think "what if I studied a STEM subject, where would I be today?" As long as you have passion and dedication, you will succeed and STEM is no different in this regard. Whatever path you decide to take in life, it's not an easy ride - you will need to take risks, you will face challenges and you will face rejection.

As long as you have the passion to work hard, push yourself and not let anything get in your way, you will be successful - your gender has nothing to do with it.

Everywoman extends deadline for Technology Awards applications

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Applicants now have until November to nominate women for the FDM everywoman in technology awards.

The deadline for applications for the annual FDM everywoman in Technology Awards has been extended to 2 November 2015.

The awards are designed to showcase and celebrate women in the technology industry as well as the skills, innovation and leadership they bring to the table.

Maxine Benson, co-founder of everywoman said: "It's been wonderful to see the positive impact that winning one of these Awards has had on so many women's careers. The profile it has given them has had measurable impact on their progression, benefitting both the individual and the business she works in. We encourage every organisation to nominate their women."

All women in the technology industry can apply or be nominated for an FDM everywoman in tech award, and the ceremony aims to highlight the diverse pool of talented women working in the technology sector.

The 11 categories cover as many areas of tech as possible to give the opportunity for a number of different kinds of women to win including rising stars, engineers, leaders in large organisations or founders of disruptive startups.

The FDM everywoman in Technology Awards are free to enter and this year's categories are as follows:

Entrepreneur Award- Sponsored by ARM

Innovator Award - Sponsored by Equiniti

Team Leader Award - Sponsored by Asda

Leader Award - Sponsored by BP

International Leader Award - Sponsored by Fujitsu

Inspiration Award - Sponsored by VMware

Rising Star Award - Sponsored by American Express

The One to Watch Award - sponsored by EMC

Start-up Founder Award

And two new categories for 2016 are:

Digital Star Award - sponsored by CGI

Engineer Award

The awards are now open for entries until November 2 2015 and the awards ceremony will be held at the London Hilton on Park Lane on 23 February 2016 after the everywoman Forum 2016.

Over 500 industry leaders, government and the media will be in attendance to celebrate the award winners. 

Marketing the technology industry to women

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This is a guest post by Jennifer Kyriakakis, Founder and VP Marketing, MATRIXX Software

When people ask me what I do, I tell them my company develops software for communications providers, and the question that always follows is: How did you get into that?

I got into a technical field purely through exposure and interest. In my senior year of high school I took an elective computer class where we learned some basic programming and a little about this 'world wide web' thing that was taking off.

Fast forward a month and I was hooked. I knew Information Technology was a field succeeding during the recession and growing at a fast rate, so I declared my degree major, 'Management Information Systems' long before I'd even stepped onto campus.

Six of the seven people in my major were women. Little did I know then, this would be the last time I would be in that situation. As my career progressed, the number of women in my immediate peer circle kept getting smaller and smaller. Whenever I meet C-level members of a company today, there's rarely another woman in the room.

I've read the ratio has changed because women get married, have children and take time off. But I'm not sure that's true. The women I do know in executive roles all have children, and I've just had one of my own.

Growing minority

Recent statistics suggest there are simply less women in tech today than when I started my career. In 2013, just 26% of computing jobs in the US were held by women, down from 35% in 1990. In October last year, Microsoft reported that women make up almost one in three of its workforce, but only one in six work in technical positions, and just under a quarter hold leadership roles.

At Google, women account for 17% of the technical roles, with just 21% in leadership roles. Even lower in terms of diversity, Twitter reported just one in 10 women work in technical positions, with just one in five in leadership.

Given the expanding role technology has played in people's lives for the last 15 years, you'd think the trend would be moving in the opposite direction. Young women today grew up with mobile phones, laptops and fairly ubiquitous internet access. They grew up leveraging technology in most aspects of their lives - so today's work force has more exposure to tech than ever, yet the number of women working in the industry has been declining.

Even more ironic, when you look at aspects such as work/life balance, tech companies are great companies to work for. Yes, you work very hard, but unlike many other professions, you can do a good sized proportion of the work from anywhere, mobility has made that possible. Tech companies are also known for providing better benefits, healthcare, and other perks that will benefit your family that other industries can't provide. The tech industry is actually better aligned than most with many of the values women hold close such as the importance of flexibility with family and social time.  

So what is it about technology that's seemingly repelling women from an industry which is making huge leaps and driving the world's economy?

Exposing the diversity of tech

I think the problem here is not that we aren't exposed to science, maths or technology when we're younger, but rather the way we are exposed. If girls were exposed to all the different ways technology drives the economy right now, they would be inspired to work in technology - not turned off. I think what it actually 'looks like' to work in tech is completely misrepresented and misunderstood. Sure, if I watched Silicon Valley, I probably wouldn't want to work here either.

When I started out, working in technology largely meant working with enterprise software. Now we're in the age of the app economy, digital retailing and social networking. With technology driving so many industries today, you'd think more women would be attracted by the prospect of working in tech.

No matter what you are interested in - from fashion to food, movies to mountain climbing - there is a tech force behind it, building new technology to change or improve things. Technology today is centred on user experience and listening to the voice of the customer.  The industry itself is diverse in the technology being created, and the roles within those technology companies are by no means limited to developers and software engineers. 

There are more roles in product management, product marketing, user experience design, customer support, and so forth. These roles require something other than a hard core engineering skill set to be successful and are extremely crucial to the strategy and success of tech companies.  And if you think about traditional female vs. male skill sets - women tend to be better listeners, better multi-taskers, and are better at communicating than their male counterparts - which sets us up well to thrive inside of a tech company.

Marketing the industry

If you're reading this blog it probably means you're already working in technology or at least have an interest in it. So how do we inspire other women to follow suit? How can we change the stereotype of a developer sitting in a cube, tapping out code for some abstract piece of software? And finally, how can we draw women in from other industries?

I would market a career in tech the way you market a career in fashion or teaching. Be involved in the thing you love. Focus on the end product, rather than the nuts and bolts technology perspective of it.  Tech is not just about building software, it's about creating meaningful customer experiences and these days skills from other industries are far more transferrable than people realise.

Changing perceptions

As someone who works in the telecoms industry, I know in my sector, companies are actively seeking people from outside the industry to come in and shake things up. Similarly to the way Apple brought in Burberry's ex-CEO Angela Ahrendts to run its retail and online operations, telcos are looking to hire people from the retail space to bring a fresh perspective into the business and help them become a bigger part of the app economy which they have seemingly been left out of up until now.

It's time to change the way we market the technology industry to women of all ages. Mentoring and education are key factors, but we first need to work together to change the stereotype and relate technology to female interests, pursuits and values. In doing this, I think we'd see a shift back to a more balanced workforce.

The recipe for success for women looking to work in IT

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This is a guest post by Doris Mattingly, Director of Engineering, Lantronix

The statistics don't lie; there is still a clear gender gap within the IT industry. Despite an ever-growing need for an increase in skilled women in the IT industry, statistics show that only 17 percent of the industry is currently made up of women. Throughout my career I've witnessed a gradual increase of women in the IT industry, however, more still needs to be done to get women interested.

Addressing the issue

Thinking about how I got to where I am now, I owe a lot to my school. When I was growing up in Connecticut, I was lucky to attend a great high school. Whilst I was there, I developed a passion for maths and science. We were provided with advanced classes in the sciences and as a result it provided me with great options when applying to university. When deciding on what to study, I knew I wanted to work with both maths and science and because of this electrical engineering became a very appealing option. The degree provided me with plenty of hands on experience with both hardware and low-level software.

Many young children in education aren't as lucky as I was though. Great science and maths programmes are not commonplace and they often don't have the chance to take part in opportunities such as science and maths clubs. There is so much more that schools could - and I believe should - be doing to educate young girls on the IT and engineering sectors.

Programmes and campaigns

The UK government has taken steps to help address this problem. Campaigns to raise awareness in schools and recruit students to tech companies have been promoted through its STEM (Science Technology, Engineering and Maths) programme. However, despite this, each year the UK is short of 40,000 STEM graduates and the difficulty in recruiting these individuals is witnessed by 95% of graduate employers.

These statistics show that the government and universities still need to be doing more. As well as running career centres, universities should be looking to run regular seminars and discussions where students can learn more about specific IT industry opportunities. This would give students a chance to learn more on topics such as engineering, M2M, security, storage etc. It's tough for young students to go out and find all of this information by themselves.

Steps to success

For girls who have an interest in maths and science, or who already have an interest in the IT industry, but are unsure of what career path to follow, my advice would be to embrace the many opportunities that the IT industry has to offer. In my opinion, there has never been a more exciting, evolving and lucrative career path. But what should they do to get on this path? Here's my advice in four simple steps:

·         Highlight your skills and aspiration in the right place - Get your CV in shape and be sure to list your talents and relevant qualifications. Investigate the job market and apply for stimulating and varied roles

·         Involve yourself in training programmes - By being part of a club or training programme you can receive guidance on selecting the relevant GCSE, A-level, degree or industry-recognised accreditations necessary for the area of IT that you'd like to work in. STEM programmes are perfect for this and I would advise joining one to help you receive advice

·         Plan a route for your journey - Your career won't be as simple as going from 'A to B'. You will need to think tactically about where you would like to see your career path take you. By setting yourself goals you can monitor your progress by reaching one goal at a time

·         Seize the day - Go for it! Once you have secured the correct qualifications, seize the many opportunities that are out there. Once you know where you want to aim for, don't let anything hold you back from achieving your goal!

Getting started in the industry

Whether working in a tech start-up or an established organisation, both offer plenty of opportunities to shine. However, my experience has shown me that an individual is often more 'visible' in a start-up or small company and this offers a greater chance to stand-out and be recognised for their specific contributions. Whether choosing a small or large company, my advice for women to succeed remains the same - work smart and hard, be confident, and stay focused on the job and you're bound to be a success.

What a 14-year-old girl can teach you about business

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One of the ways you can make your business work? Make sure you have the same imagination as you did when you were young. 

I recently went to a workshop for female entrepreneurs in the IT industry designed to teach women who want to start a business where and how to seek legal advice.

Before we get too caught up in the advice that was given about women's networks, I wanted to highlight the advice given by a young entrepreneur named Jenny Brenan.  

Admitting it had been a while since her first venture, Brenan told how after setting up her own business she had handed it over to family when she got "distracted by her degree."

She was 11 when she taught herself to code, in the days where those with HTML skills had the best MySpace pages and your ability to keep your Neopets happy was a measure of your social standing.

She decided, at 14, to start a business making websites and trained and then hired her dad to help her along the way.

"I started a business because it was better and more fun than a Saturday job, but no one wanted a website from a 14 year old girl." she said.

Brenan explained this was the best way to be when starting a business: "I didn't have guts, I was 14, I just had no fear."

But whenever a client had a question, they would direct it at her dad despite her being the one giving all the answers.

"What a 14 year old shows there, is you might not always come across as the package that people need," she explains.

"In many ways it's a marketing problem."

Unfortunately this is a problem women in the IT industry still face and Brenan admits what she had previously called "a marketing problem" is "also a societal problem."

Later on this issue was discussed by a panel, featuring Susan McLean from Morrison & Foerster, Maria Shiao, MD of Novus Ordo Capital Ltd, Caroline Ferguson, founder of Living Lawyers, Lu Li, founder of women's network Blooming Founder and Catherine McClen, CEO of Buddy Hub.

The women stated they do still get underestimated, but you have to own your minority and use it to your advantage.

"We just want our fair share of the whole cake." Sated Li, who has built an advice network for women entrepreneurs.

"Entrepreneurship is a level playing ground," Li stated.

"Women need to believe more in themselves and their own capabilities - just go out there and do your stuff."

Maria Shiao then highlighted that eventually as long as you can follow up your claims and attitude with affirmative action, people will warm to you and your ideas.

All of the ladies highlighted that at first men in business may ignore woman and direct questions at other men, but if you keep bringing the conversation back to yourself the men will eventually get the message.

They also insisted that women should make use of the networks and tools available to them to keep themselves in the loop, ask other women for help, and eventually make the city and the industry a more diverse community.       

In the end, just as diversity makes teams more productive and innovative, it will be diversity that makes you stand out.

"Take the knocks, be strong with your business and what you're all about," summarised Morrison & Foerster's Susan McClean.

 "They might remember you against five Daves."


Who are the women in IT?

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The IT sector covers a wide variety of careers and firms - but who counts as an IT professional?

A while ago I was chatting to a woman who had quite a senior IT job. On finding out I had a Computer Science degree she suddenly announced "oh, you're one of us!"

I began to realise there's a bit of an elitist view of who actually counts as a woman in IT, so I was surprised when I was asked to talk about my role as Computer Weekly's Business Editor at a BCS Women and Women in High Performance Computing (HPC) event in September 2015.

I chatted about my degree, about what IT skills and training I have and how I ended up as an IT journalist.

The crowd had mixed opinions on whether or not I actually count as a "woman in IT" with some saying I have the training and I use the knowledge every day so I should count, and others saying I don't actually work in a technical job and so I am not an IT woman.

One of the speakers, Georgina Ellis from OCF, even said she was a "fraud" to be speaking at the event because she is a salesperson as opposed to a software engineer or something similar.

Like me she has the knowledge and she uses it every day, but she isn't in a technical role.

Regardless of whether or not I am worthy of a woman in IT title, the event I spoke at was designed to convince women at a career crossroads to consider moving into a role in the IT industry.

Other speakers on the panel were academics Lorna Smith and Alison Kennedy from EPCC, Toni Collis from EPCC who founded Women in HPC, Georgina Ellis from OCF and Gillian Arnold the chair of BCS women.

Each spoke about their background, their jobs and how they reached the point they are in their career.

Speaker Lorna Smith claimed the reason there's a drop off in IT careers after getting a degree is down to universities.

"There is a problem with career plans for software engineers in universities," she said.

"Universities struggle with career progression."

To tackle some of the pressures women put on themselves when wanting a successful career, Gillian Arnold gave some sound advice which could be applied in most industries including speaking out for your achievements rather than waiting for them to be noticed, making sure you examine your own motivations and finding and using active networks in your industry to your advantage.

Toni Collis followed up by explaining there are few opportunities day-to-day for women to interact with other women in the sector, and women's networks can provide support.

"There's no shame in wanting to network with other women." She insisted. 

FDM Everywoman Awards 2016 now open for nominations

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The FDM everywoman in Technology Awards 2016, partnered with techUK, are now open for nominations.

Everywoman's sixth annual event is searching for 2016's most successful, inspirational and influential women working in the technology sector.

Launched in 2011, the awards celebrate females making a difference in the technology industry, whether they're startup founders, leaders in large firms or still building their path.

By showcasing these women's achievements through the awards, the FDM everywomen in Technology awards aims to inspire others to pursue a career in IT.

Maxine Benson, co-founder of everywoman said: "These Awards are playing a hugely important role in shining the spotlight on talented, successful women who have the ability to inspire a girl, a graduate, a colleague to pursue a career in technology. Only this will help increase the number of women working in technology from the woefully small 25%."

Sheila Flavell, chief operating officer of title sponsor FDM Group commented: "FDM is delighted to be sponsoring the everywoman in Technology Awards 2016 for the fourth consecutive year, as we continue to share a commitment to supporting, maintaining and celebrating tech talent within the industry. Diversity in the workplace is fundamental to business growth and success; it drives innovation, facilitates communication and improves global awareness. To push this diversity we aim to promote a gender -balanced workforce and continue to be inspired by the many women who are driving technology forward. FDM's dedicated global Women in IT campaign is our way of showcasing our continued commitment to driving gender diversity in the workplace, by encouraging women to pursue a career in tech."

Julian David, CEO of techUK said: "techUK is once again delighted to support the FDM everywoman in Technology Awards. Attracting appropriately skilled employees continues to be one of the biggest challenges facing the UK tech sector and we need a greater representation of the working population to join UK tech companies and help support continued sector growth. In particular, we need to work hard to attract smart, skilled women who are not currently attracted to the industry and communicate the breadth of career opportunities in tech that are open to all."

The FDM everywoman Awards are free to enter and this year's categories are as follows:

Entrepreneur Award- Sponsored by ARM

Innovator Award - Sponsored by Equiniti

Team Leader Award - Sponsored by Asda

Leader Award - Sponsored by BP

International Leader Award - Sponsored by Fujitsu

Inspiration Award - Sponsored by VMware

Rising Star Award - Sponsored by American Express

The One to Watch Award - sponsored by EMC

Start-up Founder Award

And two new categories for 2016 are:

Digital Star Award - sponsored by CGI

Engineer Award

The awards are open for entries until October 27 2015 and the awards ceremony will be held at the London Hilton on Park Lane on 23 February 2016. 

What role does technology play in building a diverse workforce?

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WCN, UK and global Recruitment technology provider, has helped organisations around the world hire great people. One of the many areas where recruitment technology is making a major difference is in helping build a truly diverse workforce, as Nick Holmes, UK managing director of WCN explains.

Business leaders increasingly view diversity as a key element in the success of their organisations, with studies showing a clear link between increased workforce diversity and better revenue and sales performance. Beyond financial measures, a more diverse workforce carries significant benefits, including enhanced retention rates of your talent and greater connectivity to your customer base. Yet many organisations still find it difficult to recruit a greater mix of people. With the business case for a diverse workforce ever clearer, focus has turned to how to implement diversity, and the role HR, recruiting and technology can play in making it happen.
UK going the right way
In the UK, we have made great progress towards building diverse workforces overall, with diversity well understood in executive and government circles. The approach to diversity at London2012 showcased to the world what a truly diverse workforce and customer engagement strategy looked like, resulting in diversity leader Stephen Frost (now at KPMG) speaking on diversity at the World Economic Forum. While the UK still has to close the gap to more progressive countries like Norway, there is evidence that we are going in the right direction, with female representation on FTSE100 Boards going from 11% to 23.5% in the last 4 years.'s not all good news
While examples like London2012 and market trends show that organisations in general are getting increasing competent when it comes to unbiased recruiting, it is not all positive news. Research[i] shows that there are only six non-white people in the top 268 leadership roles across the most prominent public bodies outside government and local authorities. According to the study, ethnic minorities are less likely to reach top Public Sector positions than within Britain's biggest companies in the private sector, despite the legal obligation on state bodies to promote equality and diversity within their staff.

Although the general picture within the Public Sector is improving, there remain certain areas that still struggle to attract candidates from diverse backgrounds. The public sector is not alone in this, showing that we still have a lot more work to do to continue progress towards diversity in every workplace.
How tech can help
Technology is making it easier than ever to improve diversity levels and reduce discrimination, through providing greater transparency and insight. When an organisation adopts innovative technology and practices at the forefront of the talent's journey into an organisation, the first thing that happens is you get better insight. You are able to see what is happening at different stages of recruitment, from who the marketing attracts for which roles, to how candidates are reviewed by different departments and managers, and how those candidates progress through the recruitment process down to a granular level of detail. Recruitment technology can monitor job offer rates by specific interviewers for example, allowing you to uncover conscious and unconscious bias.   

Once you have the visibility, the second major impact technology has is that it enables you to start making changes based on the data you see, and measure the impact of these changes. As you make changes, whether it is diversity awareness training for hiring managers or a different recruitment marketing strategy, you can see what happens, who you hire and where you can continue to make improvements.  

Removing Barriers
Beyond visibility and measurement, technology can increasingly help remove remaining visible and invisible barriers. Many businesses increasingly recognise the need to adapt recruitment process to avoid turning off certain groups of candidates, for instance those who require reading support or those whose first language is not English. One of the most dramatic technology-developments to combat discrimination in recent years is 'talking technology', making the online recruitment process more accessible to all.

Such technology has a huge impact on accessibility. 1 in 10 people in the UK have dyslexia to some degree, 10 million people have a disability and 1 in 6 is from an ethnic background.  
In a move to address this, WCN has integrated DiversityTalks, a speaking toolbar, into the recruitment platform built for customers. DiversityTalks speaks over 20 foreign languages, enlarges text and changes colour contrast, making the system more accessible to the growing number of people who struggle to read websites, enabling a higher level of accessibility for all candidates.  

Where do we go from here?
There are 189 different nationalities in the UK, 17 percent are black and minority ethnic (BME). This number is set to rise to 20 percent by 2021. Recent statistics[i] show that diverse groups outperform non-diverse groups in an employment situation, so it's becoming increasingly important to attract a diverse workforce. Increasing gender diversity by just one percent will boost your bottom line by three. This is also true for a one percent rise in race equality, but three times the difference, as it will increase your revenue by nine percent.  

Companies can now be far more thorough in their search, ensuring they are looking in the right places for the right staff, not just in the UK but across the globe. Using the right tools and technologies encourages companies to cast a wider net, interview more candidates and combat discrimination more efficiently.

Right now, diversity recruiting in many organisations mostly relies on users knowing what to do; rather than enabling better diversity recruitment through technology, but tech is taking the opportunity for mistakes away. Rare Recruitment's Contextual Recruitment System, designed to promote social mobility, is a tech offering, which can be integrated to a company's recruitment technology and process. The tool works by hardwiring social mobility metrics into the firm's existing ways of assessing candidates, which will enable them to take the economic background and personal circumstances of a candidate into account, enabling companies to identify 'stand-out' candidates regardless of background.

Continual Improvement
Improving an organisational approach to diversity is a journey that never ends. We always need to analyse, review, and keep striving to improve. Many leading organisations are setting up dedicated community areas of careers websites for particular groups, which allow candidates to find out more specific and relevant information. Particular examples are disability pages on corporate career sites with functionality for candidates to engage in a conversation yet remain anonymous, providing them with an opportunity to explain any disabilities or unusual circumstances that might hinder their chances during the recruitment process prior to applying. Other recent smart approaches have been portals based at hiring specific groups such as women within technology. These portals highlight the successful careers that have already been forged, and have a warmer and more engaging language, in comparison to the often cold words of a job description, leading to higher levels of candidate engagement and ultimately greater number of applicants.

The Last Word
If you want to hire a diverse workforce it's essential as a start point to set diversity targets. Once you set targets you have to be able to assess your progress, measure what is going on, and make the effort to keep improving. The war for diverse talent is on, and you better be ready to up your game.
For more information about how WCN can help your organisation improve diversity through recruitment technology visit

Why girls DON'T need to learn to code

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This is a byline by Richard Protherough, managing director of Spring Technology

As the English summer begins, there are two things that are certain: Brits will keep calm and carry on complaining about the weather, and virtually every newspaper and blog will publish an article encouraging girls to take up coding and parents to enlist their daughters in coding camp. 

Coding has become this season's fashionable one-size-fits-all approach to addressing the gender gap in IT and telecoms. There is no doubt that there is a problem in the industry. After all, recent research by Spring Technology noted that women make up a remarkably low 16 per cent of the UK's total IT and telecoms workforce. However, the obsession with coding could be doing more harm than good. 

There is no doubt that the current focus on coding is well-intended; it is a useful skill and something has to be done to address the gender balance in the technology industries. However, IT and tech careers have all too often been portrayed in a narrow light - as groups of coders gathered together in dark rooms drinking one can of Coke after another and discussing online gaming - like a particularly mundane episode of The IT Crowd, with more binary and fewer jokes. 

Such an image does a disservice to the IT industry, and drastically underestimates the range of jobs available in IT that do not involve coding. Coding, for example, is not a necessary skill in the career of an IT engineer, an IT business analyst or an architect to name but a few. 

In a rush to address the gender gap in IT and tech, the importance of coding has been raised up to hubristic levels, culminating in five-year-olds being required to learn to code as part of the National Curriculum from September 2014. By the age of 11, pupils are required to "design, use and evaluate computational abstractions that model the state and behaviour of real-world problems and physical systems".  

The issue with this approach is that some young girls may be put off completely. By touting such a niche field as all-important to the development of a future career in IT, we risk putting girls off an entire industry that has an extremely wide variety of interesting, exciting and fulfilling careers to offer. 

The solution to addressing the gender balance in the IT industry is uncertain, but by settling for a simple answer, we may be compounding the problem. Repeat after me: Not every girl needs to learn how to code. 

Reader discount for 2015 everywoman Academy: Advancing Women in Technology

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It's nearly that time of year again where our friends over at everywoman hold their leadership academy at IBM's Southbank.

The 2015 everywoman Academy: Advancing Women in Technology aims to equip women in technology with the skills they need to advance their careers and to become confident leaders.

As a partner of the everywoman academies Computer Weekly has attended this event several times and I always look forward to learning something new and worthwhile in the workshops available on the day.

With the need for IT professionals expected to grow by 1.6% per annum until 2020, the industry needs to do more to not only encourage more women to consider a career in IT but to also retain the talented ones that already work within the sector.

During this year's October academy you will learn how to:

·         Developing a long term career plan

·         How to stay motivated

·         Creating a positive personal brand

·         Building resilience to navigate workplace challenges

As a supporter of this event, everywoman are offering our readers a 20% discount off tickets. Last year was a sell-out event so ensure you book your space early and enter the code CW20.


Venue: IBM Southbank, London

Date: 15 Oct 2015 8.30am to 4.45pm

What Geena Davis can teach the IT industry

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This is a guest blog by Eileen O'Mara, vice president sales EMEA at

This year's shortlist for the ComputerWeekly Top 50 Most Influential Women in IT is more impressive than ever, and seeing the achievements of so many interesting and successful women in technology laid out before me got me thinking about Geena Davis and her See Jane campaign.

I realised I was looking at a list of the UK's most intelligent, powerful businesswomen from every type of technology company. Their outstanding achievements will be celebrated through the rankings - clearly, great strides are being made to improve the opportunities for young girls and women alike within the IT industry.

But although it's a great step forward, it's still only just the beginning.  

At present, there are just over five men for every one woman studying computing in the UK. And this number is the lowest that it's been in years. This means - sadly - that the UK economy is missing out on significant opportunities for growth, innovation and success.  One recent report predicted that increasing the number of women working in IT could generate an extra £2.6 billion a year for the UK economy.

The reason why Salesforce sponsors and participates in these programmes is to help drive interest for women of all ages to choose careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) and start making positive strides to turn back this tide. We need to do as much as we can to recognise the achievements of female IT executives in the UK and Ireland.

But we need to do more than just sponsor - and attend - awards ceremonies, even though they have a massively important role to play of course.

A recent interview with Geena Davis in McKinsey Quarterly looks at the potential impact of the lack of girls in family films. The ratio of male to female characters is 3:1, the same as it's been since 1946. Davis argues that it's probably not a coincidence that in many segments of society--including on boards, in politics, and even in IT companies - the percentage of women stalls out at around 17 percent, given that we condition young children to see that kind of number as the norm.

It's important therefore that we make the issue of women in IT not just about women. So many of the hurdles we face actually come from social and cultural norms that both men and women propagate. That means getting men educated and involved in the debate as much as women. Next year I hope to see even greater male participation and interest in the Top 50 Most Influential Women in IT event. 

We must do more to showcase the impact and potential for women in IT. Geena Davis talks about how easily and quickly children incorporate what they see into an understanding of the role of men and women in society. At Salesforce, we like to say that you can't be what you can't see - that young girls really need to see and hear from mentors and successful women to know and understand what we can achieve, in the IT industry and beyond.  

What it means to be a woman in IT and a woman in the military

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Cliantha Kay

Then and Now: 
Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Cliantha Kay 2.jpgThumbnail image for Cliantha Kay 1.jpg
I was a Communication Systems Operator in the Royal Corps of Signals. This role gave me the opportunity to operate and maintain secure military radios and network infrastructures. I am now placed on site at LV= today as an FDM Consultant in a Junior IT Build Manager role.

What it means to be a woman in the military and a woman in IT:
The world of the military is often male dominated however working hard, consistently and diligently ensured I progressed. I did have to put in extra effort on the physical aspects of the role but that just built and strengthened my character. In my experience thus far, the same can be said about IT.

Why decide to leave and why IT and FDM:
I decided to leave the army in order to pursue a career in IT. The world of technology is evolving and it always involves IT at some stage of its evolution. In my opinion, this ensures job security, as long as you stay on top of your game and keep informed about the latest trends. FDM really appealed to me and I was drawn to the opportunity because it provides the training and support needed in order to find a job in the world of IT.

How FDM helped you make the transition:
FDM provided the baseline skills for me to transition into my job.

What skills/training ensured success in your current role:
I enrolled onto the ex-Forces Programme to pursue a career in technology and received training on the standard military pathway in London. My training in UNIX, SQL, OS Admin enabled me to understand my job with more ease than if I had not and thanks to FDM, have transitioned into a great role in the finance sector.

Jennifer Smith

Then and Now:
Thumbnail image for Jennifer Smith 1.jpgThumbnail image for Jennifer Smith 2.jpg
I was an Executive Officer (Second in Command) in the Royal Navy. I am now a placed on site as an FDM Consultant in a PMO Associate role at UBS. 

Why I decided to leave and why IT and FDM:
After 6 years of primarily navigating warships, I didn't think I was particularly qualified for anything other than life at sea. Whilst I knew that I no longer wanted that lifestyle, it took a bit of time to decide that I wanted to branch into project work. Although I loved my time in the Navy and wouldn't take it back for anything, I made the decision to leave and forge a new career for myself based in London. I initially struggled to kick-start my second career but came across FDM and saw that they provided a great solution to the problem I had been experiencing.

How FDM helped you make the transition:
FDM training helped me gain basic industry knowledge and vastly improved my confidence in a business environment. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the FDM Academy and I'm excited by the future opportunities it has facilitated.

What skills/training ensured success in your current role:
After passing the FDM assessment and interview, I was placed on a 4 week training course at FDM to build up some basic industry knowledge and improve my confidence in a civilian business project environment. The training gives you the basic skills required for your placement as well as a PRINCE2 qualification if you don't already have one. My role today is certainly high pressure at times, but it didn't take long for me to settle in and the experience is invaluable. I'm not sure exactly what the future will bring and I am still relatively new to my role, but right now I'm incredibly happy with where I am. I'm very excited to see where this new journey will take me and it's only on some occasional sunny days I miss being out on the water.

Women Who Code Belfast Hackathon

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Women Who Code will be holding its first hackathon on June 6th at the University of Ulster's Belfast Campus.

If you're interested in taking part in a day of coding, creating something fun, networking and winning prizes you can RSVP here.

I've been to a Women Who Code event before - had a great time and learnt a lot. More information can be found below.


The BCSWomen Lovelace Colloquium 2015

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This is a guest blog from Helen Miles, research associate, Department of Computer Science at Aberystwyth University.

This year's BCSWomen Lovelace Colloquium was the 8th, and was the biggest in the event's history. This was my first ever Lovelace Colloquium, and I'm sorry to say it was only as a helper/photographer. I'd never heard of this event as an undergraduate (admittedly, a few years ago now), and I wish so much that I had! What a fantastic day, meeting so many women in tech with such great posters across all kinds of computing topics.


The day involved a number things: a poster competition for undergraduates at different stages of their course, keynotes from some very inspirational women in tech, a questions panel, lots of company careers stalls, and (most importantly) cake. One of the things that impressed me most about the whole event was how the wonderful Dr Hannah Dee (main organiser) manages to run the event free for the undergraduates by getting so many great and generous industrial sponsors to cover different things throughout the day. It's pretty cool to see so many companies being actively interested in getting more women employed in tech careers.


The colloquium was headline sponsored by Google (who also gave us some cool goodie bags), with a delicious lunch by Twitter, and coffee and cake by Bloomberg. Additional travel was sponsored by BCS, the University of Edinburgh, and SICSA (speaker travel). There were a lot of employer stalls, including FDM, Kotikan (who made an awesome garden stand!), UTC Aerospace, VMware, GCHQ, Bloomberg (with a cupcake challenge!), Twitter, Scott Logic, EMC and JP Morgan.


I have to say a huge thank you to Amy Guy for being the local organiser, for putting so much work into this year's colloquium and for hosting us in the beautiful Informatics Forum at the University of Edinburgh. It's quite a testament to the colloquium that she attended the event all through her undergrad, and now she is a postgraduate and still doing so much to support it.



Four great keynote talks happened throughout the day:


Being Passionate and Working on Things that Matter

Kate Ho, product manager at


Cloak and Swagger: Understanding Data Sensitivity Through the Lens of User Anonymity

Dr Geetanjali Sampemane, software engineer at Google


Insect robotics

Professor Barbara Webb, University of Edinburgh


How I stuck around for 30 years

Professor Lynda Hardman, CWI Amsterdam


It was great to have perspectives from women in both academic and industrial roles, and to hear how they got to where they are now. Some wonderful stories and great advice about following what makes you happy and persevering to get to that place, as well as some amazing work from maths games to robotic crickets!



An afternoon panel gave attendees the chance to ask questions about careers in tech, from both industrial and academic paths. Four panelists were from sponsoring companies - Google, EMC, Bloomberg and JP Morgan - and a fifth from the University of Dundee represented academia.


My favourite piece of advice (and I heard so many others say the same thing!) was from Dr Karen Petrie from the University of Dundee: she has a playlist of 'power songs' to get her ready for a fight (not an actual fight...). This is what works for her and she recommended we all find the thing that works for us, the thing that gets us ready to deal with hard times and difficult situations. This might be listening to a song, wearing certain clothes or makeup, or even having two pairs of glasses - a friendly pair and an intimidating pair!


lovelace 2.jpg

The panel answering questions about careers in tech and their own experiences.


Poster Competition

This year's poster competition drew the largest ever number of entries to the Lovelace Colloquium, with over 70 posters from first year to MSc level. Posters are split into categories based on year of study. Each poster contest has a prize with an industrial sponsor, and the winners also got special Google goodie-bags full of cool swag to go with their prize money!


lovelace 1.jpg

Midway through the day, some of the posters are getting swapped - so many brilliant posters and so few poster boards!


First Year Poster Contest, sponsored by Google

1st place: Summer Jones of Imperial College, "Computational Neuroscience - Could it Eradicate Memory Loss?"

2nd place:  Yiota Laperta of Aberystwyth University, "Programming an Arduino"


Second Year Poster Contest, sponsored by Slack

This covers undergraduate students in between their first and final years of study, so second year students from a three-year course and third year/industrial placement students from a four-year course.

1st place: Emily Fay Horner of Sheffield Hallam University, "Nanobots: from Fiction to Reality"

2nd place: Lucy Parker of Edinburgh University, "Assistive Technology for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders in the Classroom"

An honorable mention also went to Natasha Lee of Bedfordshire University, "Reframing the Mainframe: Struggle for the future of enterprise computing"


Final Year Poster Contest, sponsored by EMC

This covers anyone in their final year, so third year students on a three-year course and fourth year students for those on a four-year undergraduate course.

1st place: Amanda Curry of Heriot-Watt University, "Generating Natural Route Instructions for Virtual Personal Assistants"

2nd place was a 3-way tie:

Jade Evans of Aberystwyth University with "Teaching and Evaluation of Breast Radiologists, Using Computer Games Theory"

Yazhou Liu of the University of Bath, "Neologisms and Idioms: Translators 'nightmare'"

Jade Woodward of Dundee University, "Let's Help Around the Kitchen - iPad Game for Children with Autism"


MSc Poster Contest, sponsored by JP Morgan

Dhiya Al Saqri of Buckingham University, "Digitalised Human Body"


People's Choice Poster, sponsored by interface3

Every attendee gets the chance to vote for their two favourite posters during the day, with the most popular poster winning the People's Choice Prize. With so many amazing posters, last year saw a three-way tie; this year had another incredible array of entries, resulting in a two-way tie between:

Emily Wang of Edinburgh University, "Koi Pond"

Milka Horozova of Queen Mary University of London, "Can a Robot Make this Poster?"


Social at The Potting Shed, sponsored by Scott Logic

The day ended with a social at the lovely Potting Shed bar, just across the road from the Informatics Forum. Scott Logic kindly sponsored the evening's drinks and nibbles, where everyone spent time mingling, chatting about posters, keynotes, and tech, and just having a great time!


So after my first time attending the BCSWomen Lovelace Colloquium, all I can do is say that if you are an undergraduate woman in tech, please go! It can sound scary to go to an event like this on your own, but I can promise you, you aren't alone. As a postdoc, I've been to a few conferences, but Lovelace was the friendliest and most interesting with such a variety of topics; no wonder people keep coming back every year.


There's a Flickr album full of photos from the event available here:

Women in IT survey: How did you get into technology?

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The joint Mortimer Spinks and Computer Weekly women in IT survey is now live for the fourth year.

Everybody has had a different journey into technology so this year we would like to hear your stories.

We would like to know:

  • What led you into technology? 
  • How important is each technology hire?
  • Could cross training be the missing link in tech?

The survey takes just five minutes.

In addition Mortimer Spinks is looking for people to feature in case studies, so if you would like to get involved please get in touch.

You can participate in the five minute survey here.


Advice for women on how to become a business leader in technology

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This is a guest blog by Marne Martin, CEO of ServicePower Plc.

Since September 2013 Marne Martin has led London Stock Exchange listed ServicePower as CEO.


Thumbnail image for 2014_ServicePower_MarneMartin small web.jpgFollowing International Women's day recently I really wanted to pass on experiences from my career in technology that I think would be helpful to the aspirational women looking to carve out a business leadership position in technology.

Even today, technology has a reputation for being a male-dominated arena, and that is of course true, however I do sense that the tide is changing. From young to old we increasingly organise our lives using technology, this mainstream visibility is piquing the interest of more and more young women looking for challenging careers that make a difference - but how do you break through?

I grew up on cattle ranches in Montana and Wyoming. As you can imagine these were male dominated and from this experience I took lessons that are absolutely transferable to the modern technology organisation.   The first thing is don't be afraid to show what you are capable of so grab each challenge presented to you as early as possible in your career.  Secondly, those that always look for solutions differentiate themselves from the pack and become more enjoyable to work with. Interpersonally, don't try to be someone that you aren't.  Some of the best advice I received early in my career is that manners are always appreciated, but that doesn't mean a woman can't be a tough negotiator and a capable leader.

Whenever I was presented with a hard project, I wanted to lead it and wanted to work with those that were the most capable.   At 22, I was working in Venezuela where the company I worked for won the first GSM license in the Americas.  At 24, we completed a privatisation of one of the last US state-owned vaccine plants, something that was controversial at the time but a valuable experience. 

The group I worked for continued to make investments in start-ups, as well as more mature companies.  My first major challenge was in my mid-20s leading the group's Central American telecoms firm Digicel Holdings supporting the license acquisition, fund-raising, and then at 27 having the responsibility to oversee and launch the operation with our local management team.  Of course one is nervous, but per the old adage, never let them see you sweat and projecting confidence goes a long way.   Having such an opportunity at a young age can be intimidating, but taking the plunge and doing it helped me to establish a record for success. It also helped me extend the network I had with the people who had given me the opportunity, they would subsequently trust me with further openings in the future. 

To become a leader in technology and to move up the ladder, I would  strongly recommend considering expat or overseas roles.  In my thirties, I took my Americas experience and worked more internationally in the UK, Europe, the Middle East, SE Asia, and even China. These experiences really helped me broaden my horizons and provided valuable experiences that have given me a broader 'toolkit' of skills to call upon. 

Additionally cross-functional skills are essential to have as you move up the ladder.   Pragmatically speaking, it is frequently easier to gain those skills in a smaller or mid-sized company where talent is always scarce, or in an international subsidiary where you have less bureaucracy and silos.  These opportunities allow you to quickly learn the roles and aims of the individual functions that make up a successful business.  It is being exposed to multiple functions in a business and seeing how strategy is executed that later enables leaders to make the tough decisions necessary to drive a holistic and strategic approach to a business, while also understanding the challenges faced to execute. 

Be sure to remember though when you get to the level of manager, director, VP or CEO to never give up or rest on past successes. You (like everyone in a leadership position) are going to have bumps in the road, but you will continue to be presented with opportunities to grab hold of and often the opportunities that matter the most are not the ones you plan for, but rather those that come out of the blue. 

It also really helps to continually make sure you demonstrate that a) you are the right person for not only the job you have, but also the next one in line b) you have value to add to the wider organisation and c) you manage your team in a way that makes them perform better.

Finally, be the type of person that you yourself would hire. Gender-specific biases exist, but do I ever feel discriminated against because I was a woman? No.  Despite some bad press the vast majority of technology companies are meritocracies and most issues can be worked through with some emotional intelligence and perseverance. You can't argue with success and it is up to you to prove yourself.  The world doesn't owe you a free lunch, but it will recognise hard work and results, and the reality is that we have a shortage of good managers so companies have to adapt.  Woman will continue to make progress against the glass ceiling, and we owe it to ourselves to ensure that we are developing the experience and competencies to stay there.

BCSWomen Guinness World Record attempt this June

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I keep hearing about a BCSWomen Guinness World Record attempt from the women in IT community, so here are some details to share with you on how to get involved.

On Saturday 13 June (10:30am-3pm) BCSWomen are coordinating universities, organisations and BCS branches to code apps in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the largest number of people learning to write Android smartphone applications at the same time.

The workshop is a 'family fun day' which will involve apps being built in mixed aged groups. It's suitable for anyone over the age of 10* and everyone under 18 will need a guardian.

Groups across the UK will take part in talks, activities and hands-on coding to build apps that can run and install on Android phones or tablets. Each group will need to bring a laptop and an android smartphone or tablet.

BCSWomen have highlighted MIT AppInventor, which is a free, web-based system for creating simple apps using drag-and-drop coding techniques.

BCSWomen have suggested the following ways in which you can get involved:

  • ·         Run your own branch event - all you need is a room with good Wi-Fi
  • ·         Lead an event - this involves 3 hours online training in advance
  • ·         Assist at an event
  • ·         Promote the event - through local publicity and your networks
  • ·         Come along to an event and bring other people
  • BCS will provide: 
  • ·         Event materials
  • ·         Online training
  • ·         Funding towards refreshments
  • ·         Assistance finding a presenter

If you are interested in getting involved you can contact

Computer Weekly will be involved in some shape or form to help break the world record, so if you can help out with the BCSWomen campaign be sure to drop them a line!

*If you do think a child under 10 would benefit from the day, BCS has said it can contact the local event leader for you to check whether they can make an exception.


Time to get personal

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Inspiring women about IT is the responsibility of us all, says Emer Timmons, President, BT Global Services UK, finalist in the 'Leader of the Year - in a corporate organisation' category at the 2015 FDM everywoman in Technology awards.

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We all know there are not enough women in the IT industry, and an insufficient pipeline for the future. At 16 per cent, there are now slightly fewer female IT professionals in the UK than 10 years ago.

There is no upside to this situation. The shortage of women damages competitiveness, because British business can't find all the skilled people it needs. It affects the wider economy: increasing the numbers of women in the IT industry could generate an extra £2.6 billion a year for the UK[1]. And it hits women themselves: the lack of women in STEM contributes directly to the gender pay gap, which has widened to 13 per cent[2].

To its credit, the government recognises that the situation is serious and is working hard to encourage more young women into science and technology with a range of educational programmes. But there is something we can all do, indeed, should do. Every woman, every man working in the technology industry must talk to girls and young women about the amazing opportunities of a career in IT.

As a member of the Women's Business Council, I get to speak to lots of female school and university students. So what do I say? I tell them that there is no glass ceiling in this industry and many paths lead to the top. I tell them that the money is good - the average starting salary for engineering and technology graduates is 16 per cent higher than for graduates overall. I point out that big technology companies such as BT practice what they preach with flexible working policies that allow women to combine a career with raising a family.

But above all, I tell them how much I enjoy coming to work. How profoundly satisfying my job is. I tell them that since I graduated with a degree in maths and economics, I've worked in sales, in marketing, in operations, in distribution and today have responsibility for millions of pounds of business. That I have a terrific team which helps top companies do bold and exciting work that makes the world a better place; how we helped BT make the most of its London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games sponsorship programme. I make it clear that my job is as much (if not more) about connecting with other people and solving problems as it is about technology. I want them to know that I love my job passionately - and they would love it too.

You don't have to be female to tell young women that they can have amazing careers in IT. All of us in IT, and especially those in leadership positions, must take responsibility for opening young female minds to the extraordinary possibilities of a future in technology. Government is doing a great deal; schools and higher education are doing all they can. But nothing beats the power of personal testimony.



Beijing 20+: How important is ICT for tackling gender inequity?

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This is a guest blog by Liesbeth Van den Bossche, gender equality activist and marketing and donations officer at Computer Aid International

The 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action brings opportunities to the international community to renew their commitment to the gender cause and mobilise the public opinion. But whilst it is great for activists and participants to reiterate their intentions, it is crucial to take in consideration the changes that have happened in the world to enable greater implementing of women's rights worldwide. I believe that only education can enable women to be aware of their rights and in 2015 new technologies are crucial to give female access to education and empowering tools.

As it is stated in the World Economic Forum 2014 Global Information Technology Report little progress has been made in bridging the digital divide between technology savvy nations and others in the past few years and stalling progress risks missing out on the positive impact of ICT within disadvantaged communities. For most developing countries a more solid ICT infrastructure must be a priority to avoid the emergence of a new digital divide.

For women in developing countries this means that 23% of them are less likely than men to be online and build their own knowledge and skills. The African Protocol of Women's Human Rights stipulates in Article 12 the Right to Education and Training: 'States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to: promote education and training for women at all levels and in all disciplines, particularly in the fields of science and technology'. Taking this in consideration, ICT4D organisations (ICT for development) are trying to implement equality in the usage of computers and connectivity to give women the ability to learn new skills, become independent and improve their lives.

Researchers at University of Zimbabwe Buhle Mbambo-Thata, Elizabeth Mlambo and Precious Mwatsiya, who partnered up with Computer Aid, demonstrated that women in Zimbabwe are still suffering from discrimination and unequal access to ICT. Due to traditional gender structure, it seemed to the men of the university that women were not worthy of using the PCs lab.

Despite an outwardly equal access to resources and student forums at university, female students struggled to gain access to facilities on an equal footing with male. Moreover, the young women did not feel that they could visit computer labs late at night due to cultural expectations and related stigma, restricting their access to ICT even more.

This resulted to Computer Aid and the University of Zimbabwe to pioneer the country's first IT lab accessible to female students only and counteract the gender inequity seen in facilities and ICT use so far. The response from female Zimbabwean students after one year of use has been overwhelmingly positive which is why the capacity of the lab will increase from 50 to 150 computers. Users report an increase in confidence when approaching ICTs for the first time. Female students at the University of Zimbabwe can now use ICT for research and can equip themselves with 21st century skills that will put them on a more equal footing with male peers when pursuing careers. This means that more guidance and measures are needed to support women and eradicate gender issues. Although technology is vital for healthy growth and development and has a huge impact on resource-poor communities it is also a vital tool for women to empower themselves especially in developing countries. Control of resources the main goal for women to reach independence, improve their lives and have their rights respected. With ICT literacy women in developing countries have higher chances to access to employment or even set up their own online businesses, generate income for themselves and their family and contribute to a fast growth of their countries economy.

As much as technology is key for development and more women have access to it, women are still left behind. We have to give women the ability to be connected in a fast pacing world where technology has become an essential element for employment and education. ICT4D organisations will have all eyes on the Beijing+20 59th Commission on the Status of Women in the coming week hoping that gender equality issues in ICT will be highlighted and actions will be taken to encourage gender related initiatives in the new technology field.

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