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More than 70% of female students have never considered applying for a graduate job in technology, according to research by KPMG.
The study, of more than 1,000 university students, found that 73% of female students had never considered a tech career after graduating, and just over half of male students said the same.
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Of the students who said they had never considered a tech career, or who had considered one but then decided against it, the most common reason for their decision was a lack of formal technical training.
Aidan Brennan, head of digital transformation at KPMG, said the research showed that women are no less competent then men when it comes to tech, but many women can be put off applying for roles if they do not feel they have the right skills – and businesses need to adapt to this.
“Competition for jobs is tough, and we know that female job-seekers can be less likely to apply for a role than their male counterparts if they don’t feel they already possess every prerequisite the job demands,” said Brennan. “Businesses committed to building a truly diverse workforce need to adapt their recruitment processes to reflect this, and ensure they don’t fall into the trap of listening only to those who shout about their capability the loudest.”
The UK currently has a lack of skilled technical workers, and many firms complain that graduates are leaving university without the mix of technical and soft skills needed to fill roles.
The KPMG research also found that women have less confidence in their technical abilities than men, with only 37% of female students thinking they have the tech skills required for today’s jobs, compared with 57% of male students.
A quarter of students, both men and women, who said they had either never considered a tech role or had but then didn’t apply, said they chose not to go into tech because they “would have to learn too much”.
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Creative and soft skills are becoming increasingly important in the technology industry, and although male and female graduates rated themselves equally for technical skills such as word processing, coding, databases and data manipulation, women rated themselves higher in soft skills such as social media.
But although women are well suited to these roles, a number of negative stereotypes surround the technology industry, making young people unaware of what tech jobs actually involve. Many women are deterred from entering the industry because they think roles will be too technical or inflexible.
Only 12% of the female students surveyed said they had considered a graduate job in technology and had applied for a position, whereas a quarter of the male students said the same.
Girls are often turned off technology from a young age, with many claiming that science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects are “too hard”.
When asked what adjectives they most associated with a graduate role involving a significant amount of tech, both male and female students included “complex” in their top five, but men put “creative” in their list of top adjectives, while women put “well paid”. Other descriptions the students used for tech-based graduate roles included “innovative”, “cutting-edge” and “challenging”.
A lack of knowledge about how creative tech roles can be is not only preventing young people, especially women, from applying for such jobs, but it is also leading teachers and parents to negatively gender stereotype children and put them off Stem careers from a young age.