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May 18, 2016updated 28 Mar 2017 5:38pm

Women in tech

By John Oates

There has been a shortage of women working for technology companies for as long as there has been a technology industry. Much research puts the blame not on the industry itself but on failures within education which see girls put off studying Science Technology Engineering and Maths subjects – also known as STEM – from a very young age.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise is doing its bit to challenge this by sponsoring TechFutureGirls – a set of activities suitable for teaching or for an after school club aimed at girls aged between 9 and 14. It aims to encourage more girls to keep studying STEM subjects with an eventual positive impact on the jobs market.

Over 150, 000 girls in 4, 500 schools have already used the activities.

This initiative aims to combat ‘the pipeline problem’ – that a lack of women studying these key subjects which leads to lower numbers of women going into further education to study STEM subjects. In turn this leads to a lack of suitable graduate candidates for technology industry jobs.

Although changing attitudes within education clearly has a role to play there is also plenty of room for the industry itself to improve.

The numbers of women in technical roles remains very low – women take just 17 per cent of technical jobs at Google and only 10 per cent at Twitter.

Recent research from McKinsey found women struggle even to enter the industry – never mind thrive and get promoted within it.

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Researchers found that women make up 37 per cent of entry level jobs in the tech industry and make up only 15 per cent of C-level jobs. Only the automotive industry had worse figures.

Financial and professional services by contrast sees women in 52 per cent of entry level jobs and make up 22 per cent of C-level jobs.

There’s more from McKinsey here:

HPE also funds a scholarship programme to encourage more women to study information technology at college level.

For people perhaps looking at a less traditional way into the industry HPE works with the Prince’s Trust to support its entrepreneur training activities. This offers training and mentoring for young people looking to start their own businesses.

Internally HPE is also working to encourage more women to join, and stay, at the company.

Its women’s network has over 500 members in the UK and it also runs a mentoring programme to help women at all stages of their careers.

There are lessons here for the wider tech industry which has not done enough to combat conscious or unconscious bias in both recruiting and promoting the best talent.

Attracting and keeping the very best people is a competitive advantage for any company. Consciously or unconsciously excluding 50 per cent of potential recruits and candidates is not a good way to run any business.

The best employers are ones which can encourage and promote women to technical and management roles as much as in marketing or sales support.

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