The urgent case for getting women into STEM

GUEST BLOG: In this contributed blog post, Sheila Flavell CBE, COO of FDM Group, explains why it’s so important to get women into STEM roles, and why now is the time to do so.  

Over two years on from the initial outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and working practices have changed beyond all recognition. During those incredibly dark times, when people lost their lives and livelihoods, it was all too easy to assume that the crisis would cripple the economy and set key initiatives, like driving diversity in the technology industry, back decades or more.

However, what we all saw during those lonely few years was that rather than shirking back, our technology innovators and entrepreneurs stepped forward to help with the recovery. From world-beating vaccine programmes, incredible deployment of digital support services, to the impressive efforts of frontline workers, our country – and indeed the world – showed that it was up for the challenge and ready for the fight.

Fast forward to the present day and Britain’s female tech talent have proven themselves to be more than capable of juggling family life alongside glittering digital careers. But the case for building a more diverse workforce is far more than a shallow call to action, our economy needs it, with great urgency.

Recent estimates have forecast that the UK will need three million jobs requiring digital skills by 2025. However, data shows that 52% of the UK workforce still does not possess such skills. Getting women to explore and pursue careers in areas like science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is crucial to our financial future and we all have a key role to play in this process.

In schools, young women are showing a great interest in computer science as a subject to pursue, with research from techUK showing three in four considering it as a study option. However, when it comes to carrying on these critical subjects to degree level, the numbers fall sharply. This has to change, and businesses, schools and the government have a duty to ensure it does.

At FDM Group, we are committed to recruiting and training women from all backgrounds so they can launch a successful career in the technology industry. We recently had the honour of receiving Gold Accreditation from independent assessment body TechSkills, meaning our courses meet the highest industry standards. We offer the opportunity for women returners, who may have taken a career break to start a family, the chance to learn key skills like coding, even if they have no background in technology.

We do this because we believe everyone deserves the chance to get a foothold in the technology industry, yet so many women find it hard to get started. That’s why we are proud to sponsor the FDM everywoman in Technology Awards, which provide a platform for up-and-coming female talent to showcase their achievements. I’ve participated in these awards for many years now and it never ceases to amaze me how so many entrants continue to deliver amazing work.

As we move beyond the shadow of the misery of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have an opportunity to accelerate, empower, reboot, and rebuild our economy in ways we never thought possible. With flexible and remote working, online learning and a wealth of new start-up companies and technology investors seeing the UK as the go-to country for growth, the opportunity for us all has never been bigger.

For years, we have called for a concerted effort to get young women to pursue STEM subjects. As we move forward with our freedoms restored, there can be no further delays, it’s time to build a truly diverse technology sector, that reflects the values and vision of the people it serves.

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