The rise of women in technology

At the start of 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May declared the UK technology sector to be a “great British success story”. But just how easy is it for women to break into the UK tech scene?

The third annual Tech Nation report revealed the UK to be at the forefront of Europe’s digital sphere. It probably comes as little surprise; in 2016, the UK received £6.8bn in venture capital and private equity investment, more than double that of any other European country.

With the digital economy growing twice as fast as the wider economy, there has never been a more exciting time to be involved in tech. Despite this, women remain seriously under-represented – it’s thought that just 16% of UK tech roles were held by women in 2016. And it’s not just a UK issue, because the lack of diversity is felt across the globe. In fact, recent research from Silicon Valley Bank found that gender diversity declined across US tech start-ups in 2017, with only a third (30%) of companies having a female on the board.

It’s an issue that the tech industry is desperately trying to address, as greater diversity amongst the UK tech scene will bring many benefits. It’s estimated that if women took up the positions currently posed by the UK IT skills shortage, the UK economy would profit from an additional £2.6bn annually. Looking at the bigger picture, greater gender diversity within the industry would significantly help to close the wage gap – in the UK, women work an average of 12 days more each year than men, most of which is unpaid. That’s not to mention the diversity in thought and creation, which would breed innovation, new perspectives and advance existing concepts.

To attract more women to the profession, companies need to ensure their offers reflect the needs of the candidates. Research Jobsite conducted with specialist recruitment firm Robert Walters uncovered that female tech professionals felt that businesses offering remote working (76%) and career progression opportunities (72%) were most likely to retain top talent.

To encourage greater diversity in the UK’s booming tech scene, Jobsite spoke with professionals that have worked their way to the top of the industry. We’ll provide information about working in tech, so you can determine whether an IT career is the one for you.

The rise of women in technology

Image: Adobe Stock

What roles are available to women in the tech industry?

One diverse aspect of the tech industry is the range of careers it offers. For example, it needs:

  • Software engineers – who design and develop software across multiple industries – are in hot demand, leaning on maths, engineering and computer science skills.
  • Cybersecurity analysts – who calculate the security risks a business is facing and how best to protect it – are becoming more vital by the day, and require analytical and engineering skills.
  • Web designers –  who are required to produce eye-catching websites – will require a strong creative talent, and an understanding of markup languages such as HTML.
  • IT managers – who oversee and coordinate projects from beginning to end – will need thorough planning, confident decision-making and clear communication.
  • Games developers – who work on creating the latest video games – have an emphasis on art, animation and audio.

These are just a few examples of the job variety that the tech industry boasts, catering for people with all sorts of skillsets.

How much can you earn in a career in tech?

The industry is also one that pays well. The average salary for a tech job in the UK is £62,500, rising to £77,500 in London.

Those coming straight from education will also be on a competitive salary, at an average of £32,500. And it’s only going upwards – in July 2017, the average salary for tech jobs rose by £626.

Salaries tend to vary across professions, so we’ve rounded up the most popular roles below and how much you can expect to earn.

  • Software Engineer: Earns £47,500 on average, can start out at £27,500 and rise to £77,500
  • Cyber security analyst: Earns £55,500 on average, can start out at £35,750, and rise to £75,000
  • Web Developer: Earns £38,500 on average, can start out at £26,250 and rise to £58,750
  • IT Manager: Earns £52,500 on average, can start out at £36,250 and rise to £77,500
  • Games Developer: £47,500 on average, can start at £21,250 and rise to £65,000

What are the entry requirements?

There is a common misconception that expertise and a specific career path are required to be successful in this industry. Women join the tech sector, and rise to the top, from a wide range of paths, whether from a degree, apprenticeship or general work experience.

Lujaina Kharusi, founder of the travel app Envago, disproved the notion that you need to be part of the career ladder in the tech industry to be successful in it. An economist by profession, she was attracted to the industry’s excitement and innovation, stating:

“I never actually intended to go into tech at all, but I spotted a gap in the market and I just went for it.”

Similarly, Jennifer Ward, Research & Development Leader at DocsCorp, stumbled across a career in Computer Science when she realised her aptitude for programming during a summer job. A maths student at the time, she recalls how:

“Programming required a lot of the skills that I possess – ability to problem-solve, a logical mindset, attention to detail – and I got a real sense of achievement when putting all that code together to produce a usable, useful program.”

Linda Wade, CEO of Spinview Global, was initially trading marine fuel for Exxon Mobil, but found the operational aspect boring. She recounts:

“I had the opportunity to represent the company to create an industry wide e-trading platform and I loved it. I changed industries and roles 3 months later, and I’ve been in media tech ever since.”

Speaking to Nico Castro, User Interface Developer at Red Badger, she told Jobsite how she was originally a Graphic Design student, but did weekend classes in web development. She realised she enjoyed this more, saying:

“I dropped my plans to do a master’s degree, signed up for a three-month programming boot camp and subsequently got my job at Red Badger.”

The range in backgrounds of these women is a testament to the accessibility and variety of the technology industry, which harbours countless opportunities. A technical degree is not always mandatory for success – an appetite for new challenges and creative thinking can get your foot in the door.

The rise of women in technology

Image: Adobe Stock

What is the future of women in tech?

So, what does the future hold for women in the IT sector? Many businesses are implementing flexible working schemes, and offering multiple perks, to recruit and retain the female demographic.

Deloitte and Accenture, for instance, offer an international professional women’s network. Google offers ‘baby-bonding bucks’ to both female and male employees, to help for start-up baby costs. Similarly, Ernst & Young offers flexible working for mothers, and has a transition coaching scheme for women returning from maternity leave.

Spinview Global’s Linda Wade has a similar view. She believes that the way forward for women in tech is to offer truly flexible working, which could include part-time, working from home and choosing of their own hours. She argues:

“As long as the results are attained, I support the job being around the person’s life, not the other way around. I have two core office days a week to keep the feeling of ‘team’ and ‘company’, but even those days allow late arrival or home early for school pick-ups.”

Looking at the bigger picture, many companies are looking to ignite a passion for tech at an earlier age. Caroline Price, Senior Vice President of Human Resources at Canon Europe, emphasises the need for companies to collaborate with schools to raise awareness about STEM subjects at an early age.

She believes: “This type of direct action is a much more effective way of helping young people to understand the importance of STEM subjects and how they can lead to interesting careers that they might not have otherwise considered.”

Similarly, Gillian Livingstone, Managing Director at Eureka Solutions argues that the Government ought to work with schools to “educate children on the real-life aspects of IT, whether it’s creating websites, building applications for mobiles or developing software”.

With a multitude of well-paid jobs, plentiful routes to entry, and a strong appetite for female employees, the tech industry is an attractive proposition for women with all sorts of skillsets. And there’s no other UK industry that is as exciting as the tech industry today; its extraordinary impact on the worldwide digital economy is set to change the ways we live, work and play for centuries to come. The next step for the sector is for enterprises, educational bodies and governments to raise awareness of the possibilities in tech to women of all ages, encouraging as many women as possible to join Britain’s biggest success story!

If you’re planning to change your career path, apply for your first job in tech, or ready for your next step, we’ve got the job you’re looking for here.

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