Throughout school, I was always interested in STEM subjects and had a passion for IT. In Year 14, I made a choice not to go to university as I felt I wasn’t ready yet and opted to go to a Further Education College, a choice that wasn’t supported by my school and I was on my own throughout the application process.
I gained two B’s at A Level and had gained a place on my chosen course in FE, an HND in Computing and Systems Development. Coming from an all-girls school, I already know I was going to be the minority on the course as ICT was never the most popular subject anyway. I was one of two women in my first year class and one of three in second year. This bothered me as I couldn’t understand why more women weren’t interested in Computing. From a class of 11 in A Level ICT, I was the only one who continued in the same subject field. Were young women being discouraged to study these subjects? It’s not that women aren’t capable of studying computing, as girls outperformed boys in A Level ICT and Computing and all other subjects except for Languages (French, German and Spanish).
In Further Education, women made up 51% of students studying NVQs/SVQs in ICT but only 18.1% of IT apprentices are women. Moving into Higher Education, Men make up 82% of Computer Science Students. In the workplace, 13% of all jobs are classed as STEM jobs and 15% of that are Women ICT professionals.
Women’s participation in education in general is higher than mens, yet they don’t hold an equal share of jobs once they graduate. This could be attributed to a number of factors for example, companies may not have good work/life balance policies in place, expensive childcare, lack of equal pay (for every £1 a man takes home, a woman takes home 85p), lack of flexibility, I could go on. However we also face another battle of institutionalized sexism, where young girls and women are bombarded with gender stereotypes and are told what jobs are for women and what aren’t. I have myself faced this, often meeting shock when I tell people I study Computing, they usually expect me to say something different. If the IT industry is not more balanced, they risk losing out of half of a talented workforce. It is not good enough to just say “not that many women apply for these jobs”, we need to be asking ourselves why and fixing the problem.
Sources: Wise campaign