Women in Technology

Leigh Smyth women in technology

Written by Leigh Smyth, Head of Digital Inclusion at Lloyds Banking Group

The digital and technology industries are among the fastest growing industries in the UK and we’ve seen first hand at Lloyds Banking Group, (LBG) the huge take up of digital services by individuals and organisations over recent years. The demand for seamless and intuitive digital experiences is only set to increase in the future but as an industry, it is important that we face into the looming skills gap and do more to secure more women in digital and technology roles.

The fact that the UK is facing a skills shortage in the digital sector is fairly well-known, with the British Chamber of Commerce showing that 52% of digital businesses reporting difficulties in filling their technical vacancies. As well as this half of businesses struggling to find appropriately trained and experienced staff due to a shortage of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates, according to the UK Commission for Employment and Skills. Tackling this is one of the key focuses of the government’s 2017 Digital Strategy; they have estimated that there will be a gap of over 2 million jobs in digital skills by 2020 and this will cost the UK economy around £63bn in lost income.

Underlying this is the simple fact that the female talent pipeline is sadly lacking; The Tech Partnership’s Women in IT Scorecard states that only 17% of all UK specialist technology jobs are held by women and only 9.5% of students taking computer science A-Level courses are female.

This begs the question; as an industry, why are we simply missing half of the talent that is out there?

As women are so underrepresented in the digital and technology workforce, we believe that a key way to address this is through encouraging more women into the sector now by helping young female students to see the opportunities for the future.

These changes can be made both in schools and by employers. The Women in IT Scorecard has shown that the proportion of females studying or progressing along the path to IT employment drops at each of the key stages in their educational development – from 100% at Pre GCSE to just 17% as a Higher Education qualifier. They are trying to address this through initiatives such as TechFuture Girls, a code club for girls aged 9-14, but more needs to be done in both the private and public sectors.

Our purpose at LBG is to help Britain prosper and we see that there is huge potential for growth in this area, not only for the digital and technology industry but also for the UK – as there is a significant amount of talent waiting to be unlocked. We want to empower and inspire women from the breadth and depth of the country to learn more about the opportunities available to them through digital and tech. Earlier this year, alongside partners including Microsoft, IBM, Facebook and Vodafone, we hosted an event at Manchester Metropolitan University Business School to engage and excite the next generation of digital leaders called Discover your digital Future.

Attended by 400 students from across the North West, of which 50% invited were female, the event aimed to encourage the pupils to choose science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects at A-Level,and to consider other vocational options such as apprenticeships and internships as a stepping stone to a job in the North West’s growing Tech industry and to consider jobs for a more digital future.

We also have apprentice and graduate development schemes which are focussed on ensuring that we have a diverse range of colleagues join our organisation at the start of their careers, contributing to our talent pipeline.

We’ve by no means cracked it here at LBG, but we think we’re on the right path. We have always believed that as a bank that represents every community and diversity group in the UK, this should be reflected in our workforce. By doing this we will better understand and serve all of our customers.

Our Executive Board has pledged to increase the number of female senior leaders in the group, with a target of reaching 40% of women in senior roles by 2020. There is also a real focus in our Digital team on nurturing and promoting female talent and providing strategic support to women.

Across the Group, we have a well-established women’s network, run by a passionate and dedicated team of volunteers who deliver engaging events and activities for their 16,000 members to help support their
needs and development.

We have also created a dedicated digital offshoot of the network to specifically focus on supporting women through a digital skills lens and have collaborated with other leading companies such as LinkedIn and Google and other diversity networks including FemTech Leaders and Ambition First to ensure we are providing cutting-edge opportunities and training.

LBG is committed to flexible working which we believe helps everyone to work in the way that best suits their individual lifestyles. Technology has been a massive enabler,whether it is remote working, compressed weeks or reduced hours. I use FaceTime, conference calls and virtual meetings which allow sharing of desktops.This allows all of our employees to balance work and home and to get the most out of their careers. This has created a supportive culture where people are judged on their outcomes regardless of where they are based or which hours of the day they work. From my own perspective I see the ability to work flexibly
as essential.

Over the years I’ve changed my hours in line with my children’s needs and my husband’s schedule. We as employers have the power to enable families to alleviate the anxiety of working parents. Agile working has been considered a benefit for employees and a cost for employers, by responding to the needs of our workforce business we have seen a direct positive impact at all levels of the organisation.

There’s no silver bullet to fixing this, but we passionately believe that if we can inspire and connect our schools, public and private bodies to focus on this important issue together, we will go some way to turning the dial and by doing so, will help Britain prosper.

This article was originally published here and was reposted with permission.

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