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Getting more women into the technology industry, especially outside of the London bubble, will require a more collaborative effort, according to tech sector experts.
At a meeting of Tech Talent Charter (TTC) signatories in Leeds, several experts from across the tech and employment sectors, including employers, trainers and members of the local authority, said collaboration will be key to retraining and employing women in tech roles throughout the local Leeds area.
Debbie Forster, CEO of the Tech Talent Charter, said diversity is essential for innovation in the current tech landscape.
“The Tech Talent Charter works to bring companies together to share best practice and collaborate, to connect the dots rather than re-invent the wheel to increase the diversity of their teams,” she said.
“Collaboration between companies can take this to the next level, helping more women to find a way into tech. We see the beginnings of this in Leeds and are excited to work with local employers to take this to the next level.”
More than 300 companies have signed the TTC, and run events aimed at accelerating the increase of diverse talent in the technology industry, both in and outside of London.
A lot of the focus around building more technology talent is focused solely on London, and the TTC has made efforts to partner with firms outside of the capital to grow diversity outside of London’s seemingly closed ecosystem.
At its breakfast event in Leeds, TTC signatories, including representatives from Channel 4, Lloyds Banking Group and Accenture Digital, discussed how to retrain women for roles in the tech sector, and how to help those who have retrained into the industry.
While there are initiatives in place to try to encourage more women into the industry, TTC signatories agreed collaboration would increase the speed of change, and employers local to the Leeds area agreed to work with training providers and the local authority to build an “ecosystem” for training and hiring retrained women.
This would involve promoting the schemes of other TTC signatories, advertising employment opportunities and considering posting roles at job fairs or on online job boards.
Charlotte Light, controller of systems delivery at Channel 4, said: “There is already so much going on in Leeds focusing on returners and bringing women into tech, with organisations like TechMums and FDM, and active programmes at Sky and the BBC are oversubscribed with not enough placement opportunities.
“Collaborating with them seems like a great opportunity for Channel 4 to support the local market as we expand our operations to Leeds working with companies that have already established programmes.”
Retraining women who were already in the tech industry and took a career break, or who are keen to gain skills for a technical role for the first time, is a huge focus when it comes to the effort to increase diversity in the tech sector.
While the UK’s computing curriculum aims to give young people the skills they need for future digitally focused roles, it can be difficult to predict what skills will be needed in the future, and instead many believe the UK should lean more towards an attitude of “continuous learning” to keep up with the pace of tech change.
Previous research by HP found that 70% of women across the UK are interested in tech sector jobs, and 45% said they would be willing to retrain for a technical role.
TTC’s meeting found many of its signatories – such as Lloyds Banking Group, Accenture Digital, Sky and the BBC – are already running training programmes for women hoping to enter the sector, but they are oversubscribed, and while other firms are keen to start their own, they are unsure how.
Firms with already established retraining schemes, as well as the local authority in Leeds and local training providers such as TechMums, agreed to work together to advise on ways to retrain as many women as possible.
Tech Talent Charter signatories agree to a number of small actions with the aim of shifting gender diversity in the tech sector, including ensuring there is a woman on interview shortlists wherever possible, and submitting anonymous data for an annual diversity report to highlight how the industry is changing.
The initiative is the first to launch a benchmark to properly measure the progress being made to increase the number of women in tech roles.