Young women could embrace tech careers with better support from schools

A girl’s early interest in tech isn’t being nurtured enough in schools for them to succeed

Women in tech is, understandably, a hot issue. While over half of the UK's young entrepreneurs are women, venture capital firms aren't interested in backing them as the male-led culture means female voices largely go unheard. It's even more worrying when you consider that many young women are dropping STEM subjects at GCSE due to a lack of self-belief.

It's telling that the top three dream careers of 11-18-year-olds in the UK are all IT related: game developer (24.8%), app developer (13.2%) and web developer (12.6%). But break that down into gender groups and the results reveal that young women vastly prefer careers outside of the traditional tech space.

According to a new report from Nominet for International Girls in ICT Day, 35% of young women citing a tech career as being "too technical" and 28% saying it would be "too hard". Interestingly, tech's male-dominated nature one of the issues that many feel is keeping women out of tech only bothered 16% of young women.

Forty-one percent of young women also said they were put off IT roles as they believed them to be "boring", however, it's easy to see this view stemming from a lack of support at an early age to nurse an enthusiasm for the topic.

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When I was a teen I wanted to pursue a career in games development. I still remember my school's careers advisor putting me off that career path because she didn't have a deep enough knowledge of the sector. Thankfully I can still say I work vaguely in the tech remit, but for many that would have ended their career ambitions.

It seems those problems haven't changed, with 45% of 11-18-year-olds wanting better IT education to help them understand the benefits of an IT career. Over a third of UK students also think schools should provide competent advisers to help them work out a path into their IT career of choice.

"Young women are strongly influenced by their school years, what they learn and the role models they look up to," Parent Zone CEO Vicki Shotbolt said when explaining the importance of getting girls interested at IT from a young age. "These influences can clearly make a difference to the choices they make later in life, so it's paramount we do all we can now to ensure the success of our future IT workforce."

While we know that the battle for female recognition in the workplace is a tough one, it seems that the challenge in schools isn't about trying to encourage young girls into tech, it's about re-enforcing their interest before it wains. While a gender divide does still exist, with almost twice as many boys interested in IT careers compared to their female peers, there is still hope to get girls back into tech as Nominet's study revealed that young people really want schools to better support and nurture their early interests in technology careers.
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