Manchester-based trade organisation Manchester Digital has started a campaign to teach young women more about careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), with the hope of encouraging more girls into the sector.
Aimed at women and students in the Greater Manchester area, the not-for-profit created an “inspire and empower” roadshow as part of the campaign, labelled Digital Her. The roadshow will visit 10 boroughs in Manchester and provide women and girls with workshops and ring-fenced placements with employers in those areas.
Katie Gallagher, managing director at Manchester Digital, said the current technical skills gap in Manchester, and the UK more widely, would only be solved through collaboration between industry and education providers.
“Part of that is about inspiring young women to take up careers in digital and tech,” she said. “We are lucky to be home to a number of progressive and forward-thinking companies which are committed to working with us to make a difference and ensure that our industry is inclusive and diverse.”
Gallagher isn’t the only one who believes in a collaborative approach to solving the skills gap – many have said without industry and government support, educators cannot be fully aware of the skills needed in unfilled roles.
The roadshows will reach around 1,200 schoolgirls to encourage them to choose STEM subjects at GCSE and A-level, and the Digital Her campaign has backing from tech sector firms across the Manchester region, including BJSS, Manchester Science Partnerships (MSP), Auto Trader and GCHQ.
Negative stereotyping surrounding the technology industry can prevent girls from wanting to be involved, with more than half of 12-year-old girls dismissing STEM subjects as “too hard”, so Manchester Digital emphasised that part of the Digital Her campaign is about giving young women confidence in STEM subjects or roles.
In addition to events and roadshows, the first of which has already taken place, Digital Her plans to introduce young women to role models from within Manchester Digital, and encourage policymakers to make the appropriate changes which will remove bias from education and careers services.
As well as feeling like they don’t have the necessary skills to teach subjects such as coding, teachers can struggle to inform young people about the technology industry because they don’t know what roles are available or what they involve.
The not-for-profit also wants to help people such as parents, teachers and careers advisers have the information they need to support girls who want to go into STEM.
The technology industry can be very focused on London, despite the UK’s digital skills gap being a widespread issue, hence many have called for a focus on tech skills and diversity outside of the London bubble.
Manchester Digital decided to run the campaign after results from the 2019 Manchester Digital Skills Audit found only one in five technology roles in the north-west were occupied by women, and just over a third of those in the technology sector more generally in the region were women in 2018.
Read more about STEM careers
- US datacentre hardware firm’s partnership with two Irish organisations will encourage young women to pursue tech careers as STEM competition is launched.
- Campaign for STEM gender balance, Wise, calls on industry to encourage more young women into industry roles, and releases resources to keep girls more informed on possible future careers.