Helping Young Women into the Tech Industry
_ A couple of weeks ago, we went to the University of Nottingham’s Women in Tech conference. We were there to run a workshop on ‘Innovating in Tech’ to share some of the tools we use to help ideate.
We also participated in some of the other talks and workshops, and it was good to see some male participants in each of the sessions. Often, when there's a talk or discussion about women in tech, it can be misunderstood as a women-only issue. This conference was well-balanced, with ‘awareness’ and ‘encouragement’ front and centre, rather than the idea that ‘women should stand up for themselves’. With that in mind, we were very happy to participate in this conference, and we were glad ustwo sponsored such an important event.
ustwo has recently made a commitment to become a more diverse workplace, so this seemed like a great time to start. One of the diversity topics at the conference was gender equality, which meant investigating the sorts of challenges female students at university face when thinking about entering the tech industry. We were so happy when almost 25 people turned up for our workshop – there were students, professionals, women, men – and some people from completely different industries.
Getting into tech
First we asked the group to write down the challenges they felt they themselves or younger women faced in getting into the tech industry. The responses were:
- A large number of participants felt unclear about what to expect on a day-to-day basis, the sort of work you might be expected to do or whether they would find a field of work that would be of interest to them.
- There were concerns about whether they had the right skills, education and abilities.
- Other comments indicated a lack of visible role models and worries about code written by women being discriminated against.
This is leaving younger women who are looking to take their first steps into the tech industry already feeling like outcasts – damaging their confidence and expectations. There are huge opportunities for us to support and guide students even before starting their careers, especially since we know that younger women want to know more about tangible roles they can get from certain education paths and want to work collaboratively.
Our next exercise was a speed brainstorming session where we got attendees to sketch out their ideas and shout them out to the group. We quickly came up with a range of ideas on how to help young women into the tech industry. Many of the ideas focussed on helping younger women find people in the industry who could act as mentors, guiding them through things like job applications, emotional support and advice. There were also plenty of ideas around networking, improving skills and celebrating successes.
The most interesting ideas were the ones about the interview process, and how to make it less intimidating. What stood out is how much female students want to know before applying for a job. Ideas were suggested, such as a one-week experience to see if the role would be right for you, or online Q&A sessions, videos of daily life at the company, or even – in place of job descriptions – a talent matching service or questionnaire that you could answer instead of reading a job description.
Education and career path
Attending this workshop made us reflect on our own education and career paths, and how at university we were surrounded by successful female peers, doing well in their courses. As we’ve progressed into the workplace, however, the environment feels much more male dominated. What happened to all those female peers?! One answer might be suggested by this research, establishing that “men are confident about their ability at 60%, but women don’t feel confident until they’ve checked off each item on the list.” Which goes to show just how important education is in order to bring more women into our industry.
At ustwo, we’re taking steps to improve the diversity of our teams because it’s the right thing to do – but also because it means a more diverse approach to our work. This means the products we design are more inclusive and relevant for the broadest possible set of people. One of the ways we believe we can start to encourage more women into tech is by making our industry more transparent, and by providing opportunities for younger women to get experience in our industry and feel more confident in their skills and abilities. It’s important not only to support women but also to encourage men to build a harmonious working environment of inclusion together. We have to make a better, more balanced world both for ourselves and for our children – this is a responsibility that breaks the boundaries of generation.
Some of the things ustwo are implementing to help with this is a work experience scheme, a youth outreach programme and having a more balanced presence at conferences and events. If you are interested in finding out more about our work experience placements, or learning more about life at ustwo and our industry, for yourself or the younger people you work with, please get in touch! firstname.lastname@example.org