BCS calls on organisations to set a culture for diversity
IT departments need to develop a culture that supports diversity to help increase the number of women in the profession according to BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT. Numbers of women in IT have fallen from over 20% to 16% in recent years. Research shows that organisations with a diverse workforce are more profitable, innovative and productive.
Gillian Arnold, Chair of BCSWomen, a specialist group in the Institute that supports women in IT, explains: “If the UK is going to fill its skills gap in technology, remain competitive and be a leader in innovation then we need to encourage all businesses to develop a culture that supports diversity in their IT departments.”
In the Institute’s own business technology department, women represent 33% of the team.
Gillian adds: “Employers can support diversity by considering such things as how they recruit, and retain women. This means looking at recruitment practices, unconscious bias, pays gaps, flexible working options and lots more. When we get this right, the research suggests that companies benefit from greater earnings and profits, and better innovation.
“However, we also need to encourage girls to study computing at schools and university so that employers have a talent pool to select from; hopefully we will start to see the numbers of girls studying computing increasing following the introduction of the new computing curriculum. Finally, we also need to provide role models for girls and women so that they can identify with the profession, understand how they could be part of it and also realise that the opportunities on offer are very wide ranging - it’s not all coding.”
Yesterday’s call for action by the Institute comes as it launches its annual month long online campaign which features female role models talking about their experiences of working in IT.
Baroness Shields, Minister for Internet Safety and Security, Christine Ashton, Thomson Reuters, Helen Milner, the Tinder Foundation, Christina Scott, the Financial Times, and Lesley Cowley, are among some of the women who have shared their stories. The role models also include women who are undertaking IT apprenticeships and those who work in different aspects of IT such as trainers, lawyers and journalists.
Baroness Shields, Minister for Internet Safety and Security, whose blog post opens the campaign, says: “When it comes to girls, our industry has a PR problem. This is not just an issue we are facing here in the UK, but a global problem that needs tackling. Tech is for whatever reason, not appealing to enough young women as a career opportunity. Clearly this isn’t because tech is boring - some of the most interesting issues of our time are being solved through technology and digital innovation but to get more young women interested in joining the digital revolution, we need to debunk a few myths. These myths are contributing to the exclusion of talented people who might otherwise be incredible assets for our industry.”
As part of the campaign, BCSWomen will also be running an app-a-thon to attempt to break a Guinness world record for the most number of people simultaneously learning to code an Android app. The attempt will take place on 13 June at over 30 locations across the UK. All the classes will be led by women who work in IT.
Blogs will appear daily on the campaign website: www.bcs.org/itwomen2015
More information about the app-a-thon can be found at www.bcs.org/appathon
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