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Number of women tech bosses doubles year-on-year

The number of women heading up tech departments has risen to 7% in 2016, finds Mortimer Spinks

The number of women at the helm of IT departments has doubled in the past year, according to research by Mortimer Spinks.

Its annual diversity research, carried out in partnership with Computer Weekly, found that 7% of respondents were females in a head of department role, double the 2015 figure.

The figure was not far behind the 9% of male respondents who said they headed up departments.

The number of women in contracting roles also rose. There was a 32% hike in the number of women in technology working in contracting roles year-on-year as well as an overall increase in the number of people in permanent technology roles in the same period.

Michelle Pearce, co-founder and CIO at investment service Wealthify, explained: “I think people have quite a polarised view of tech. Some people think of it as being really cool. They think it’s like working for a Silicon Valley company like Google or Facebook, with offices filled with beanbags and pool tables.

“However, to others, ‘tech’ is a bunch of computer nerds sitting in the dark writing lines of code and talking about Star Trek.”

More women in IT said they were working in either government or not-for-profit organisations rather than in the private sector or for IT service providers. Not-for-profits and government organisations had the smallest density of male tech professionals.  

“Too hard”

Many young girls say they will not to go into a career in the technology industry because science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects are “too hard”, and they do not know what a tech role would entail.

David Crawford, head of software engineering at Sky, explained: “I think lots of people think it is beyond their understanding, but most of it isn’t. We all use technology all the time and with all the tools available to develop software, most people could give it a go. Schools are helping to change views here, with access to these tools and classes which apply technology to everyday situations.”

Read more about tech careers

  • Younger children are more interested in a career in technology than their teenage counterparts, who become disaffected as they grow older.
  • Supposedly tech-savvy millennials are letting social media stand in the way of job prospects as potential employers turn to the internet for background information.

Mentoring can play a huge role in people’s careers. Many advise women in the technology industry to find a mentor who can help them through their career choices and provide support.

The study also found that male IT professionals are more likely to have been mentored than women, with 56% of men saying they had been mentored at some point, as opposed to only half of women.

The routes that men and women took into the technology also varied dramatically. Women are more likely to take maths at GCSE or A Level whereas men take graphic design or computer science.

Men were also more likely to move straight into a technology role, with 43% of men but only 36% of women saying their first job was in technology.

Luckily there has been an increase over the past few years of organisations such as Apps for Good, Stemettes and CoderDojo, aimed at getting young people, and esspecially girls, interested in the creative side of technology, and informing them what tech roles entail.

Views of the industry

More than half of women think that women find technology jobs less attractive than men, and 54% believe the perceptions that people have of the tech industry are inaccurate. However, more men – 55% in all – think the perceptions held of the IT industry are accurate.

45% of both genders thought people outside the industry held quite a positive outlook on what a technology career involves.

Laura Paterson, consultant and office principal at ThoughtWorks, said: “While there are still some remnants of the traditional view of technology as a boring yet difficult breeding ground for the anti-social, I believe this is changing quickly. The world is at a crossroads, with the digital revolution entering a new phase as organisations embed technology into every part of their business.”

Formal initiatives

There has been an increase in formal company initiatives to increase diversity in tech teams. In 2014 12% of people said their firms were pushing for diversity, in 2015 16% said that was the case, while this year that figure has jumped to more than a quarter.

However, 73% of people still said they were not aware of their companies making any formal efforts towards increasing diversity in tech teams.

Overall there was a high level of career satisfaction, with 95% of men and 96% of women saying they were happy they have careers in technology, proving the sector can be rewarding once you’re in it.

Read more on CW500 and IT leadership skills

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