To mark International Women’s Day 2023, we gathered a number of the Appdrawn team to share their experiences of getting into and working in the technology sector.
Today is International Women’s Day, an opportunity to celebrate women's achievements, raise awareness about discrimination and take action to drive gender parity. What makes this year especially interesting for the team at Appdrawn is its theme: DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality.
Once a massively male-dominated field, the technology sector is now a (more) level playing field. Technology firms are continuing to close the gender gap and increase female representation in their workforces. And when it comes to celebrating the achievements of women, we need only look at the likes of Microsoft, SpaceX and Starling to see influential leaders in their fields (Amy Hood, executive VP and CFO; Gwynne Shotwell, president and COO; Anne Boden, founder and CEO, respectively).
As a tech firm it makes sense that we’re interested in IWD’s 2023 theme. But technology touches us all today and was arguably at the root of IWD at the turn of the century. The movement arose around the time of the industrial revolution, when new technologies drove new ideas and caused new disruptions. Working conditions and women’s rights have improved markedly since the 1900s, but despite over one hundred years of action there’s still a long way to go.
Girls in STEM become women in tech
Take the topic of girls and women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). For many, these topics are the first experience of learning about technology in an academic setting and a gateway to a career in tech. Underrepresentation of girls at this early stage will impact the number taking STEM subjects in higher education and the makeup of the UK workforce further down the line.
More men than women were studying STEM subjects in higher education during the 2021-22 academic year, for instance. In addition, according to UCAS data, 35% of STEM students in higher education in the UK are women. Finally, of the three million people working in the UK tech sector, only 26% are women.
Unfortunately, many girls are still put off pursuing STEM study due to the traditionally-held view that boys are better suited to these subjects. Lucy, business manager at Appdrawn, recalls her experience: “When I was taking my GCSEs, I had one of the highest marks in the year but when I requested to study it at A Level the head of IT at my school cautioned me against it which I’ve always regretted.”
Role models driving change
What can be done to drive change? Money and initiatives can help. Last year the UK government pointed to an £84 million programme to improve computing teaching and participation, particularly amongst girls. It has also funded research into gender imbalance in STEM, such as the Gender Balance in Computing Programme, led by the Raspberry Pi Foundation.
Change can also be driven by something with far greater value: female role models. Deepali, Consultant at Appdrawn credits “women I had the privilege of meeting during work placements and internships and those discussing working in tech on social media” for introducing her to the field and helping her “appreciate it was something I could be involved in.”
Role models don’t have to be women in leadership positions. Appdrawn’s Kelly, Digital Designer, says she has “learnt so much” from her peers, having “met some great people on my university course who continue to inspire me with the work that they’re doing.” Kelly’s experience was also encouraging as, she says, “it was really positive to see that the demographic on my course was almost evenly split between male and female, which suggests that there are more women getting into tech careers now.” This is reflected in statistics: between 2011 and 2020, the number of women accepted to full-time STEM undergraduate courses increased by over 50% in the UK.
Is tech a digitALL sector?
Interventions in education – whether through money and initiatives or role models and peer support – are helping widen access to STEM subjects. But achieving the goal of gender balance in technology also means ensuring the sector is accessible to those in later walks of life: a sector that really is ‘digitALL’.
This was the experience of Parul, Consultant at Appdrawn. “Previously, I have worked in the publishing, insurance and financial sectors as part of their tech teams,” she says. “Choosing a career in tech means that you're not necessarily tied to a specific industry. This means that you'll have a chance to gain exposure from a range of businesses, developing your skills along the way.”
International Women’s Day is on the 8th March every year, but its movements and campaigns are being created, observed and driven every day. There’s still a way to go until the technology sector is truly representative, but the positive conversations with a number of the Appdrawn team demonstrate a vibrant and enthusiastic working place – in our office and, increasingly, the wider tech field.