Teach girls that tech is cool to tackle the skills shortage

GUEST BLOG: In this contributed blog post, Rachel McElroy, chief marketing officer for technology solutions and services provider Solutionize Global, explains changing how girls view the tech sector could contribute towards tackling the UK’s tech skills shortage.

When figures evidence that the UK is, in fact, losing billions of pounds a year in recruitment and staffing – £1.5bn to be precise – simply because there is a lack of people to fill science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) vacancies, that underlines a nationwide problem.

And, adding into the mix that only 17% of women currently make up the technology workforce, such statistics must be challenged, and improved upon — quickly.

Why is there still such a gender divide and talent shortage when it comes to an industry that’s thriving, and is proving to be incredibly vital during the challenging times in which we all currently face?

There are, of course, many initiatives out there to evolve the digital stereotype and empower more females, of all ages, to access high-profile roles within our industry. But are they getting enough backing from an early age to support them in their quest to take technology to the next level?

Speaking as one of the small percentage of women currently operating within this arena, my peers and I have a responsibility to educate girls. We must show them how tech works to underline its power, and detail exactly why it can be such an exciting career with a vast array of opportunities.

How we do that is by tapping into what makes teenagers tick. Right now, there will be millions of young people scrolling through their social media feeds, downloading the latest Spotify playlist, and communicating with peers through a variety of apps.

So, when this age demographic is as tech-savvy as they are tech native, why are they experiencing so little exposure to the real-life roles in technology that currently exist? And are we doing enough to support the future of STEM subjects when they’re selecting their GCSE and A-Level options?

If we foster a growth mindset from an early age – where we are exposed to the practice rather than the perceived innate ability of what it takes to become a technology leader – we can aspire, and be inspired, to create change. And we’ll empower others to do so.

That’s because technology comes from us. We’re the innovators and enablers, so let’s start championing this more and encourage our girl population to challenge an industry that they might’ve previously thought was only fit for one type of change-maker.

Digital is rapidly evolving – and our skillsets are, too. What was perhaps once seen as a bit of a ‘nerdy’ career before is very different now. For any modern-day technology firm to survive they must come equipped with leaders who are authentic, empathic, and collaborative.

And yet none of these skillsets are primarily suited to one gender or another.

We need a range of voices to take innovation to the next level and that means diversifying any existing negative stereotype which has previously led many girls to feel as though they lack the natural aptitude they think they need for sector success.

Creating an educative and mentor-led environment that provides vital understanding of what job roles young females can consider should help to promote the idea that tech careers are within their reach.

Whether we’re sector professionals, parents, or teachers, we’re all responsible for inspiring our next generation of digital leaders. After all, if there is set to be a 12% growth in tech employment by 2024, according to Modis, let’s help our aspiring girl innovators to play a huge part in that statistic – and leave the negative numbers behind.

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