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Women into Tech: understanding barriers, making connections

Taylor-Smith, Ella; Smith, Sally; Shankland, Carron; Kolberg, Mario


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Prof Sally Smith
Head of Graduate Apprenticeships and Skills Development and Professor

Carron Shankland

Mario Kolberg


Computing and technology need a better gender balance. BCS report that, in 2021, only 22% of all IT specialists in the UK were women and their median hourly pay was 13% less than male employees. Further, according to HESA data, only 21% of students in UK universities’ computing departments were female in 2020-21. As the digital technology sector underpins a huge amount of our lives, it is vital that women are well-represented throughout, both to design appropriate products and systems and to empower women, socially and economically. This project aimed to support women apprentices and students in tech subjects, along with women professionals in digital technology roles, to encourage them to progress their careers in tech.
A scoping study, involving women students and apprentices via an online survey and focus groups, plus “influencers” via webinars, identified barriers to women and girls choosing to study computing and pursue careers in technology. The main barriers were: lack of awareness of digital jobs; predominantly male environments; and lack of access and support in some schools. The project addressed these via collecting and publishing case studies of women in tech, illustrating the diversity of roles and routes in; skills workshops; and events to bring women together, supporting awareness-raising and peer-mentoring (Connect-Ups); plus a CPD course to support women’s leadership skills.
The project was based in two local partnerships, each centring on a university, to compare outcomes across contexts. However, as the implementation took place online (mostly due to covid restrictions), geographical differences were minimised. Meanwhile, partnerships with two established non-profit organisations working in the same area enabled the project to include skills workshops for students and also to benefit from relevant networks to recruit participants and disseminate outputs.
Over a hundred women were involved across the project and evaluation was largely positive. For example, through the Connect-Ups, women (especially students) gained confidence and enthusiasm from meeting both their peers and women who were establishing and enjoying technology careers; they specifically valued discussions around inclusion and sustainability in the digital sector as part of these events. A final evaluation survey asked about the impact of the project and also what actions women felt would help them to thrive in the tech sector in the near future. Respondents valued meeting other women in the sector in this context; they identified that mentoring, networking, and targeted skills training would help them to thrive.
We’re keen to encourage further take-up of the project activities and resource and have established the Women into Tech blog. This currently hosts the case study profiles and the materials needed for groups to organise and facilitate three Connect-Ups, plus news and events to support our growing network of students, apprentices, and women working in tech.
BCS. (2022). BCS diversity report 2022: Women in IT.
HESA. (2021). HE student enrolments by CAH level 1 subject and sex 2019/20 to 2020/21. Higher Education Statistics Agency.
Women into Tech blog:

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name 2023 Horizons in STEM
Start Date Jun 28, 2023
End Date Jun 29, 2023
Deposit Date Oct 25, 2023
Publisher URL