How women can help close the UK’s digital skills gap

woman pointing at white board

Written by Chester Avey, Independent Business Consultant

The digital skills gap has become a major problem in the UK – it is estimated that British companies are collectively losing £63 billion every year due to a lack of digital skills and expertise. This is a problem not just in the UK but around the world, so the option of hiring from abroad will not easily solve the problem in the UK.

At the same time, women are critically underrepresented across the technology and IT sectors, and there is huge potential for women to be a bigger part of the industry. Thankfully times are changing, and more women are becoming involved in IT – and could this ultimately be the key to solving the UK’s digital skills gap? Here we take a look at women in IT and how businesses can utilise female IT skills.

Women have a vital role to play in IT

It is certainly true that getting more women into IT would be a huge positive – not only for the profession, but for the economy. Increasing the number of women employed in the tech sector has been reported to have a potential value of adding up to £2.6bn to the UK economy annually. However, with the number of women in tech remaining very low at just 16%, there has been little in the way of growth.

This shows just how important it is for businesses and government to get behind the idea of getting women into the industry. But even some parts of the IT sector with a less disparate gender imbalance are struggling to recruit female staff.

Women in cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is undoubtedly one of the most vital aspects of the IT industry, as it affects every business – from the largest to the smallest. Due to the increasing sophistication of cybercriminals and the rise of the digital world, cybersecurity has never been more important. And yet this is a part of the industry that is most crucially hit by the digital skills gap.

Statistics show the shortage of cyber security professionals is around 3 million globally, so it is vital that companies look for solutions. And once again it could be women who provide the answer. Women represent around 20% of the cybersecurity workforce – and yet this is also an area of technology where women can thrive. Some of the advantages include the opportunity for flexible or remote working, and the possibilities for a well-paid career.

The importance of female leadership in tech

To get more women into tech it may be necessary to work from the top down – this means ensuring that more women currently in the tech sector are promoted into leadership positions. Women currently hold just 5% of senior tech positions. Putting more women in leadership roles can help businesses to better understand how to recruit women, as well providing inspiration for young women who might consider a career in tech.

There’s good news here too, as women tend to outperform men in leadership competency. This means companies that do take the initiative and promote women could end up with a competitive advantage.

Campaigns and initiatives are changing things

Thankfully there are many initiatives and campaigns that are beginning to make a positive change for women in IT. The WISE campaign is one of those looking to promote a gender balance in science, technology and engineering – in 2019 there are now more than 50,000 women in engineering, which is double the number seen ten years ago. If the campaign can do the same for the IT industry, it will definitely be a step in the right direction.

Other initiatives such as those by the National Cyber Security Centre and the memorable Girls Who Code are taking steps to get more women involved in the profession.

Final thoughts

As women become more prominent in tech and IT, it becomes easier to attract young women and girls to consider the industry as an option. All the time that IT is thought of as a male-dominated profession, women who might be completely suited to a job in the industry can be unnecessarily put off.

With the digital skills gap growing, now is the time for businesses and institutions to get together and promote women’s access to the IT industry for the good of the economy.

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