Agenda: Educators and industry must come together to inspire the next generation of women in tech

Karen Meechan, CEO of ScotlandIS
Karen Meechan, CEO of ScotlandIS

By Karen Meechan

IN Scotland’s digital sector there are currently 80 per cent fewer women in upper management and leadership roles compared to men. While a fraction higher than the UK average confirmed by the British Computer Society, this figure is astoundingly low and it’s imperative that educators and industry do more to highlight the pathways and roles available for women in our industry.

Our flourishing digital community is welcoming, creative and collaborative, with many opportunities for women to pursue. But how can we shift this imbalance?

The learning of digital skills and foundational knowledge from a young age is key to recruiting new and diverse talent and needs to start in classrooms across Scotland. Schools, colleges, and universities must also work harder to highlight the industry as an attractive career prospect to capture the imagination and interest of young girls. If inquisitive, are they aware of ethical hacking? If artistic, web design or UX? If detail-orientated, software development or coding?

A recent report from Skills Development Scotland found that just 20 per cent of girls are studying computing science at school and 16 per cent are pursuing related degrees at university.

When you consider the career prospects of our young people and how these will increasingly lean on digital knowledge and skills, it’s clear that now is the time to equip students with lifelong digital abilities. If tackled and nurtured correctly, this could contribute to the unmet demand employers have for highly skilled tech professionals.

At ScotlandIS, we have long-championed gender inclusivity and actively bringing industry and educators together to help young people learn valuable digital skills.

We work closely with Developing the Young Workforce to fuel this. Our Digital Critical Friends programme, a hugely successful initiative which pairs secondary school teachers with relevant practitioners and companies in the tech sector, was first piloted in Glasgow and recently rolled out to other regions. Businesses of all sizes including Codify, Amazon, Virgin Money, i-confidential, Cutitronics, and Adobe have joined to help shape future curriculum and teaching methods.

We also support the Empowering Women to Lead Digital Transformation programme. Led by Empowering You, it aims to build a collaborative community of women in digital transformation and support their transition from early career executives into capable and motivated leaders. Joining me on the judging panel are some of the best-in-class female digital tech managers in Scotland.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, it’s important not to lose sight of the great strides we have made in the right direction. I’ve been lucky to work with and for many talented and supportive women.

We must continue to collectively work towards a permanent step change in how we support women into the industry, starting at school level, which will no doubt bring unprecedented benefits to the tech sector and beyond.

Karen Meechan is CEO of ScotlandIS