Image caption: From left, developers Rebecca Osstelton, Charlotte McAlpine and Sheila Davidson
This week, millions around the world celebrated International Women’s Day (IWD) and, slightly closer to home, we introduced you to three female developers at Wolf Group. As part of IWD Becky Osselton, Sheila Davidson and Charlotte McAlpine decided to celebrate the achievement of female IT professionals by beginning a blog series focused on engaging more women in the industry and highlighting the opportunities for successful careers that both genders have access to.
Commencing our blog series that puts Women in IT under the microscope. Wolf Group’s web developer, Becky Osselton, gives her honest account discussing the barriers women face when entering and working in the digital sector and how simple solutions could have a big impact.
Traditionally women have not been encouraged to study STEM subjects, and until more recently, most left school without an IT qualification. Capturing women at a young age is crucial and this starts with encouragement from figures such as parents and teachers. We need to raise the aspirations of young women into more rewarding careers.
I believe that female mentors can have a significant influence over young girls and we need to be raising the profile of women who are actively pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Women with children
What really sets back women at work is becoming a mother. The reality is that women often change their priorities after having children. This might mean that they no-longer wish to work full time, travel long distances or work away from home. On a personal level, I have encountered difficulties in finding part-time employment since having my children. While a current employer might be prepared to reduce working hours, finding part-time opportunities in new roles is very difficult. The IT industry is male dominated and job shares simply don’t seem to exist.
Extended career breaks can also have a negative impact, particularly in an industry that is so past faced and considering the progression in technologies that is ever present in the sector. While this affects both genders, women with young children are particularly vulnerable to this.
The need to work sensible hours can deter working women from IT careers. Employer location and core working hours become important factors when considering how to manage a successful work/child care balance.
That said, more employers are opening up to options such as flexible and remote working. Women can now more easily integrate their personal and working lives and unfair treatment in the workplace has become less of a taboo subject and more of a HR concern that needs to be carefully addressed by employers.
The knock on effect
In the last five years I have witnessed the UK’s media propel the subject of gender disparity in STEM subjects. Women in IT has become a hot topic for businesses, educational organisations and governments alike. However, I think that the fact that only 17 per cent of IT professionals are female is something that is still likely to discourage more from entering in the first place. Not to mention the currently unknown number of women in technology careers who simply give up trying to keep pace after having children, or can’t manage re-entry into the sector.
The sad truth is that we aren’t likely to see change overnight, but we are waking up to the need for more initiatives to improve education, to champion more female role models, challenge negative stereotypes and strengthen networking and mentoring opportunities.
Keep an eye out on the Wolf Group blog this month for more content from women in the digital sector.