Why aren’t there more women working in technology? It’s a burning question and one I’m keen to answer on this International Girls in ICT Day.

The day aims to inspire and encourage girls and young women to pursue a future in the growing field of ICTs to bridge the gender digital divide. Doing this allows both girls and technology businesses to gain the benefits of greater female participation in technology.

I entered the industry in 2015 when I joined technology company Roq, so I appreciate the challenges involved. I joined the company as a software tester, before moving up into the role of senior test analyst in 2018 – and International Girls in ICT Day offers an excellent opportunity for me to reflect on my own career path. 

It’s also an opportunity for me to consider the challenges and share my thoughts on what can be done to help encourage more girls to study ICT subjects and build careers in technology. 

How I’ve built a career in technology

Like many little girls I wanted to be a ballerina when I grew up and it’s a passion that I still have, taking adult dance classes where I can. But I think my interest in a career in technology probably started around the time I took my A-levels. I found myself really drawn to ICT as a subject and knew it was something I could continue in the future.

Technology really interested me when growing up during the technology boom. I remember sitting in my class in Year 7 and being the only pupil who didn’t have internet at home! But quickly after that moment we had dial-up and upgraded to the Wi-Fi we now know and love shortly after that. 

I think it’s almost impossible to grow up when I did and not have technology influence your life heavily. It was probably easier to learn then than it is now, as everything changes so quickly in the world of tech, whereas things were a little more static when I was at school. 

After my A-Levels I went to university to study a degree in Information Systems. I found out about quality engineering consultancy Roq at a university careers talk, before joining the company in 2015 the same year I finished my degree. Since then, I have progressed at Roq and haven’t looked back.

Barriers that prevent girls from becoming interesting in ICT

As someone who regularly visits schools, colleges and universities to give careers talks, I’d say that while we’re seeing more girls and young women interested in technology, there’s still this overall thought that it’s dorky or nerdy to be interested in it. 

It’s the thought that people might look at them in some weird way just because they’re smart enough to understand technology and want to be interested in it. The pressure to fit in is demanding, and I know that all children (not just girls) feel this pressure. Changing this perception is still a big challenge. 

But then I challenge these girls and young women to think of any job anywhere that doesn’t in some way involve technology. It’s everywhere and used for everything, so taking even a moderate interest in it is smart as it’s never going to leave our lives. So surely learning more about technology would actually be a much better way to fit in? 

Also, as this is a field in which males have dominated for decades, or even centuries, we still have to shift away from the perception that it’s a ‘boys/men’s domain’. Although we have our famous women in STEM such as Ada Lovelace and Mary Jackson, we still automatically think of Steve Jobs or Bill Gates when it comes to development in technology. 

However, the number of women in jobs in technology is steadily on the rise. It’s only by continuing to show just how capable we are that we’ll get rid of stereotypes completely. It might take some time, but we’ll get there. 

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How to inspire more girls to study and work in ICT

Firstly, I think we need to keep promoting female role models. For instance, we don’t hear enough about women like Ada Lovelace, who was the first person to recognise that the Analytical Engine had capabilities beyond pure calculation. 

Then there’s Sister Mary Keller, who started working at the computer centre at Dartmouth (an all-male school at the time) and teamed with two other computer scientists to develop the BASIC computer programming language. She is known for being the first woman to receive a PhD in computer science. Without these women, we might not be where we are today, and we should all aim to strive for the courage they had to face the scrutiny they faced by being female pioneers in technology. 

Also, parents should encourage all children to use technology, although using it safely should be taken into consideration. Even if that’s just taking an interest in the latest app that has taken over their child’s phone. By asking children to explain what the app is, how it works, or if they have any frustrations with it, parents are opening the lines of communication, and forcing children to really think about the technology they’re using. 

Plus, there’s a role for businesses to encourage girls to take an interest too. These girls are going to be in the workforce one day. Why wouldn’t we want to be doing everything to encourage them to pursue technology as a career? 

Nurture your passion for technology 

Finally, my advice to any girl thinking about getting into technology is: don’t be afraid to nurture your passion and curiosity for it, regardless of what some of your peers may think. Stand out from the crowd – don’t be afraid to be interested in technology. Don’t let anything stop you from following the career you’ve chosen; you can achieve your goal and build a career in technology with dedication and persistence.

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