The recipe for success for women looking to work in IT

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.