The pervasive nature of digital means that businesses in all sectors across Scotland are increasingly adopting digital technologies to deliver new products and services. This drives productivity and opens up fresh markets but also drives up demand for new staff. More than 90,000 people are already working in digital technology roles in Scotland, 12,800 vacancies arise every year and many businesses struggle to fill these roles.
Despite this evident skills gap, the proportion of women in digitally focused roles is only 18% as opposed to 48% in the workforce as a whole and 39% in other skilled occupations. There is an enormous opportunity to meet many of the digital technologies industry’s skills needs by closing the technology gender gap.
In addition to addressing the growing skills gap, there are robust business, legal and moral cases for improving gender diversity in companies. We know that where there are greater levels of diversity, companies experience greater returns on investment, equity and sales. Women’s equal participation in STEM is estimated to be worth £170 million to the Scottish economy annually. Especially in the development of new digital products and services, teams with a variety of backgrounds and life experiences are crucial to bring in fresh ideas and understand the needs of a diverse customer base.
Over the last few years, an increasing number of companies have started taking action and working in partnership with education institutions and the skills agencies to attract and retain more women to the digital technologies sector. This is reflected in the results of the recent Scottish Technology Industry Survey 2018, conducted by ScotlandIS, which showed that more than 68% of responding digital tech businesses have already taken action to address the technology gender gap.
The most commonly taken step by survey respondents to attract more women is to offer flexible working patterns that are compatible with child care commitments. 55% have tried this measure and found that it helps and only 6% of respondents are unlikely to try it. Around a quarter of responding companies provide female role models for engagement with schools and universities and/or support initiatives like Scotland Women in Technology (SWiT) or Girl Geeks. The least used measure is the provision of return-to-work training for women after a career break (15%) even though 71% of respondents would consider this step.
However, the figures also reveal that large businesses (more than 500 employees) were more likely than small and medium companies to have successfully implemented any of the measures mentioned above. SMEs often report that they struggle to develop more inclusive workplaces policies and practices due to a lack of time, resources, access to expertise and awareness of effective practices.
The ENGENDERING STEM project has been set up to help SMEs in digital tech and other sectors that recruit for technical/STEM roles to overcome these barriers. City of Glasgow College, Equate Scotland and partner from the Netherlands and Spain are working together to develop an evidence based self-assessment toolkit, best practice guides and blended learning training solutions.
Do you work for a technology or engineering company with fewer than 250 employees? Then the ENDERING STEM project wants to hear from you! There are 3 ways to get involved:
- Get Advice and Support – We will work with you to provide tailored recommendations and support to improve the gender balance in your business – all you have to do is complete our free online self-assessment tool.http://engenderingstem.eu/get-involved/expression-of-interest/
- Give Your Views – What are your views on getting more women into Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM)? Fill in our anonymous survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/Gender_in_STEM
- Share Best Practice – Do you have a success story to share? ENGENDERING STEM can promote this to a European audience in our series of best practice guides. Share your case study with us here http://engenderingstem.eu/case-studies/case-study-submission/
Svea Miesch is Research and Policy Manager at ScotlandIS, the trade body for Scotland’s digital technologies industry, and member of the ENGENDERING STEM expert group.