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Tech She Can, an initiative launched by PwC in 2018, has become an independent charity with 200 members.
The hope is that by having charitable status, Tech She Can will reach more young women and encourage them to consider a future in tech, as well as educate them about what that might involve.
Tech She Can’s founder and co-CEO, Sheridan Ash, said: “Tech She Can was set up because one of the biggest issues is getting girls and young women interested [in tech] at school level and bringing them through to university, whether that’s through an apprenticeship model or just bringing them into the workforce.
“I wanted to know what was going on beyond the standard ‘there are no role models’ type of conversation, so although there was a lot of research out there, I didn’t feel it really told me what was going on in girls’ and young women’s heads [or] what was happening in schools and at home that was putting them off so much.”
The charity was launched three years ago as the Tech She Can Charter, after PwC research revealed parents, careers advisors and teachers were often not suggesting technology as a career path for young women, leaving only 3% of girls making a career in technology their first choice.
It also found that many young women were not aware of technology’s power of good, with Ash pointing out that women often seek careers they feel will enable them to have a positive impact on the world around them.
Not surprisingly, a lack of relatable and accessible role models was also cited as a reason young women are not attracted to the technology sector – while there are notable female role models in the sector, they are often high up in organisations, leaving young women with no idea how they get from school to those roles.
When it was launched, Tech She Can worked with schools, organisations and employers to share the stories of role models in the technology sector, as well as stories about how technology has been used to improve the world, to teach children more about what is involved in a technology career.
Taking a three-pronged approach, each at a different stage of development, Tech She Can is focused on three problem areas – the early pipeline, apprenticeships and working to influence policy.
As part of a focus on the early pipeline, Tech We Can was launched in 2019 as an online portal, providing resources to help teachers in more than 630 schools tell children aged between nine and 14 more about technology careers through lesson plans, activities and homework.
This was further developed during the pandemic to include Tech Tuesdays, a series of online videos available to teachers and parents to inspire children about technology careers.
During the pandemic, Tech She Can also began an apprenticeship scheme pilot, giving 10 trainee software engineers a 10-week online bootcamp with partner firm Zoopla, and several Tech She Can partners developed a “career insight programme” aimed at exposing GCSE students to female role models. The charity plans to further develop each of these initiatives.
Becoming an independent charity will help the initiative overcome some of the barriers it has previously faced, such as access to funding.
PwC is now one of the strategic partners of the Tech She Can charity, alongside Google, NatWest, Centrica, Credit Suisse, UST, Morgan Stanley, Tesco, Nationwide and Zoopla.
Going forward, the charity will work with its 200 member organisations, which include the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Channel 4, and its board of trustees to expand the work it is already doing and develop new initiatives such as Tech We Can Champions, which is aimed at training member organisations to help their local schools and communities.
“As a young girl, technology careers and the routes into them were invisible to me – the guidance wasn’t there and today’s role models were only then breaking through,” said Claire Thorne, co-CEO of Tech She Can.
“Now, as a woman in tech, a returner and a mum, I see first-hand the urgent need to inspire our next generation when they ask, ‘What can I be when I grow up?’, to equip their schools and parents with the technology literacy they need to be able to make those routes a reality, and to value and retain our female talent, against the odds.”
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