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Leadership / Strategy

Diversity and the Digital Skills Deficiency

The IT skills gap is an ongoing crisis exasperated by continued, rapid technology innovations that are impacting businesses of all sizes and in every industry.

Tara O’Sullivan, CMO at Skillsoft and SumTotal

Without enough qualified IT personnel to understand, handle and implement new technologies, businesses are struggling to stay competitive and are falling behind the curb.  No industry is immune from the digital skills deficiency.

The answer to the crisis seems simple: get more people involved in tech.  But a lack of push for diversity within technology means that the skills gap continues to widen.  Currently, only 12.8% of the UK STEM workforce is female, according to WISE.

If this number rose, naturally, the skills gap would narrow.  Put simply, closing the tech diversity gap can help to close the skills gap.  Women are an untapped resource of IT talent.

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Although more organisations, government bodies and schools are beginning to understand this issue, further action is needed to ensure that the skills gap is closed quickly.  Here’s how businesses can play their part.

Invest in STEM training

Could you upskill or reskill the women in your workforce to perform STEM roles?  What training do they need to do those roles?

Would they be interested in taking on a different role to the one that they have, and do you allow for this career mobility?

Once you’ve established the answers to these questions, the next step is to find a learning partner that can deliver this training.

Our always-on working lifestyle means that away days and classroom sessions aren’t favourable when it comes to ongoing training. Instead, training should be delivered online, preferably in bite-size chunks and accessible on the learner’s own terms.

Continuous learning is a critical part of self-development.  Every company should be investing in STEM training throughout the work lifecycle and enabling better career mobility for all regardless of their gender, job title or location.

Be proactive

Not only do organisations need to create opportunities for their employees to develop STEM careers, executives also need to become role models regarding gender parity and equal opportunity.

Women who are in senior positions, in particular, should advocate for diverse recruitment and gender equality within their corporate environment. Cultural change tends to start from the top down. Organisations need to change their attitude to rally behind female talent.  Only then will change truly occur.

Mind the pay gap

Earlier this year, companies with more than 250 employees in the UK had to reveal their gender pay gap.  An analysis of these findings by Mercer revealed that men in high-tech companies earn 25% more than women, compared to the gap in the UK overall of 18%.

This statistic highlights the grave inequality currently present in the tech sector. The findings can be off putting to women, who may feel that opportunities in tech are bias and therefore shun the idea of a career in STEM.

This severe gender pay gap needs to be addressed, and this will likely have to be in a legal manner. Take Iceland for instance, which passed a law making it the employer’s responsibility to prove that employees are being paid equally.

Enshrining this in law would force businesses to deal with the consequences of unequal pay, But, rather than wait for pay equality to become law, businesses can take an attitude of transparency to hiring and pay.  This will make women feel more welcome and valued.

If I can’t see it, I can’t be it.

So, we need to show more examples of women in Tech to demonstrate the attraction of the career to women.

Ultimately, businesses need to expand their talent pools if they are to close the digital skills gap. Rather than turning to outsourcing or looking for talent in the same shallow pool, businesses should look to use the biggest untapped resource that they have: their female employees.
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CBR Staff Writer

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