The journey of a woman in tech

Written by Shona McClarence, Apprentice, Invotra

Around three years ago, I began my journey into the world of technology which saw me start my GCSE in ICT.

Like any young, bright-eyed student I believed that the natural progression of my education would be to continue to A-Levels and then university.

Little did I know, this path would lead me to Invotra, where I am now completing a software development apprenticeship.

Reflecting back on these years, it’s astounding to see how the number of women dropped between each stage. Approximately 20 began with me and by the end of my second year of A-Levels, only 2 remained, including myself.

“I only chose it because it’s an easy subject”

“I only chose it because I like the teacher”

“I only chose it because my friends did”

I’d say these were the most common responses I’d hear when asking others why they decided to study subjects in technology. At the end of my education, the likelihood is I was the only girl out of an entire year group that wanted to progress further in a career in technology.

So, that brings us to the discussion of why is there such a low number of women taking on roles in tech-related fields?

Many people place the blame on biased processes that favour men in such roles. Take for example the case of the Amazon AI recruiter.

For a tech giant that could potentially receive thousands of applicants for a position at their company, it’s understandable, especially with the rise of automation, why they would turn to AI as a way to filter out potential candidates.

From a first glance, it seems like a new and innovative way of finding the people you want at your company is by teaching it the qualities you are looking for. But, how do we judge the qualities of what we are looking for within a company? Perhaps we look at who we have employed in the past?

By programming the AI to rate candidates based on patterns seen in previous successful CVs, it developed a bias towards men as the ideal employee due to the majority of those successful applicants in the last 10 years being men. It taught itself that the appearance of the word “ women’s” did not make a good application. Going to the lengths of penalising an applicant for saying that one of her hobbies was attending a “women’s” chess club.

While this may be an extreme case, I feel that it highlights the underlying cause of why we don’t see more women in the industry.

It’s not necessarily that the recruitment phase is biased or that certain words are used to attract men in advertisements. I believe it comes down to the journey I first spoke about at the beginning of this blog. If young women aren’t inspired or shown the choices available to them as they progress through their education then most likely they aren’t going to look to technology as their go to career.

Evidence of this can be clearly seen in university statistics. Back when I applied for a degree in computer science the ratio of males to females on the university’s course was 9:1.

Official statistics for Lancaster university’s computer science course taken from Which? University:

Only 7% of the students taking computer science A-level courses are female. Just half of the girls that study IT and technology subjects at school go into a job in the same field.

So, what can we do to change this?

  1. Tech companies need to become more involved in all stages of education – it’s becoming an increasingly more popular occurrence for businesses to attend job fairs in schools to demonstrate the potential careers in that field and how to achieve this job goal. Yet through personal experience, it seems technology companies have been lagging behind with this movement. The vast majority of companies that attended job fairs throughout the later stages of my education were construction, hospitality and beautician businesses as well as the public sector services. If more tech businesses were to attend these it could be the driving factor in raising awareness of the types of roles that are on offer.
  2. Tech doesn’t mean code – perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions is that to work in a software company it requires you to become a coder. Having exposure to working in a company such as Invotra has really shown me the range of roles that are available. From development to marketing and QA to security analysis. If young women were to receive the same exposure, I believe they’d have the confidence to explore more of these opportunities.
  3. Apprenticeships – another of the biggest areas where we don’t see as many women involved is apprenticeships. Like I previously mentioned, the main apprenticeships that were offered to me in the early stages of choosing subject options were just construction or beautician courses. All it took was one presentation from a tech company in the last year of my A-levels to realise that university wasn’t the option for me and that I could, in fact, achieve my aspirations by completing an apprenticeship.

Originally posted here

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