Despite women in IT’s continued effort to campaign for more females to join the tech industry, 2014 has seen some low points.
A report from BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT showed only 6.5% of computing and ICT A-level students are female. But its Women in IT Scorecard also revealed that despite their low numbers, the girls who are studying computing and ICT at A-level are outperforming the boys.
Almost three-quarters of the British public struggle to identify females in leadership roles in technology, according to a 2014 survey by McAfee, part of Intel Security.
Surveying 4,000 people throughout the UK, respondents were able to identify high-profile men in the technology industry, however they struggled to identify the women.
The results revealed that when asked about the 10 most well-known men in technology, 90% of the nation had heard of Bill Gates, 78% knew the name Mark Zuckerberg and 70% were familiar with Steve Jobs. However, 72% claimed to not recognise any of the females listed – only 17% knew of Martha Lane Fox, and just 8% had heard of Sheryl Sandberg.
A female panel organised by Tech London Advocates (TLA) Women's Group and Pivotal Innovations stressed a social bias against female entrepreneurs is holding women back.
Held at Level39, the 'Finance for Female Entrepreneurs: Challenges and Opportunities' event investigated social biasness towards female entrepreneurs and highlighted the funding available in London.
UK Trade & Investment non-executive director Dale Murray said finding an angel investor can be more of a challenge.
“In banking there doesn’t seem to be any bias, but in the angel world it is rife," she said. “You will get questions about your status and age and they will wonder whether you have the guts to take it through or if you will have to step out for personal reasons part way through.”
In light of declining female figures, the education minister Nick Gibb gathered UK tech companies together in July for a summit in aid of the Tech Partnership to discuss the urgent action needed to tackle the lack of women in IT.
The Tech Partnership, announced by former universities and science minister David Willetts was launched with the aim of achieving a 50/50 gender balance in technology education and careers at entry level roles by 2020.
According to research by Nominet, an increase of women in IT could see an extra £2.6bn a year generated for the UK economy.
A survey from BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT revealed almost eight in 10 IT professionals (79%) feel they would benefit from having more women in IT roles.
According to the survey from BCSWomen, only 5% do not believe the industry would benefit from more females in IT roles. The survey coincided with the launch of a month-long campaign by BCSWomen to demonstrate the range of roles that are open to young women considering joining the tech industry.
Those who signed up and offered their support for the campaign included Cary Marsh, chief executive of Mydeo; IT entrepreneur Stephanie Shirley; Dame Wendy Hall, director of the Web Science Institute at the University of Southampton; Maggie Philbin, chief executive of TeenTech; and author Kate Russell.
Dame Stephanie Shirley took time out of her busy schedule this year to meet with Computer Weekly to discuss how her approach to flexible working and job-sharing for women in the 1960s was revolutionary and paved the way for women working in the technology industry today.
She spoke of several projects close to her heart and what life was like as a woman in IT starting out in the 1950s at the Post Office.
Maggie Philbin also took some time out to meet Computer Weekly. If she is not instantly recognisable to the generation who watched Multi-Coloured Swap Shop, she is known for her long-serving role as a presenter on Tomorrow’s World.
The Labour Party’s Digital Taskforce named Maggie Philbin as its head, tasked with reporting on why the UK is “falling behind on IT”. But it was in her capacity to promote another project that Philbin spoke to Computer Weekly – her latest technology venture TeenTech.
Founded in 2008, by Philbin and Chris Dodson, the TeenTech organisation aims to help young people understand the opportunities available to them in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics workplaces.
Both Shirley and Philbin featured on Computer Weekly’s Top 25 Most Influential Women in UK IT list 2014, with Dame Wendy Hall taking the top spot this year.
On her win, Hall told Computer Weekly solving the gender imbalance in the IT sector is not just an issue for women to sort out, but men too.
Computer Weekly also unveiled its Rising Stars as part of the Most Influential Women in UK IT list.
Outside of Computer Weekly’s awards, females in IT also managed to feature heavily in the 100 Women to Watch list for 2014.
Torie Chilcott, co-founder and CEO of Rockabox, and winner of the FDM everywoman woman of the year award 2014, told Computer Weekly this year that females have a tendency to feel guilty about having a family, whereas "with a startup you can be the boss and set the tone, and stop feeling so guilty about having a family.”
At an everywoman in Technology Leadership Academy this year, speakers stressed the importance for women in technology to keep moving forward without feeling they need to be perfect in the process.
At the event at Deloitte’s London offices, speakers shared their experiences and advice, highlighting how women have a tendency to strive for perfection, but tend not to draw attention to themselves along the way.
An FDM everywoman roundtable discussion also discussed how more women need to be involved in the recruitment process to attract and retain female talent. The roundtable took place on the morning of the FDM everywoman in Technology Awards.