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UCAS record: 82% increase in UK women applying to IT degrees

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Women are still hugely underrepresented though, with over four in five computer science applicants being male. Experts encourage UK businesses and government to help promote wider gender diversity in those studying for tech qualifications.

IT courses at UK universities have seen a record number of women applicants in the latest annual data, a freedom of information request has revealed.  

Over the last decade, the number of women applying to IT courses has increased by 82%.

Plus, since 2019, there has been an increase of 10% in women applying to computer science roles.

Over the last decade, male applications to computer science courses rose by 52% in the UK. Since 2019, the increase in male applicants stands at just 2%.

The data, sourced from UCAS and collated by IT security solutions providers Cheeky Munkey, shows the numbers of applicants to IT and computer science courses at UK universities. The data analysis sought to identify the increasing diversity of demographics entering the UK tech industry, taking into account the specific courses being applied for, as well as the age and gender of the applicants.

The news comes as figures from the Office for National Statistics* showed thatthe tech industry was the third-fastest growing sector for job growth in the UK between July and September 2021, with women representing 71% of professionals placed during this growth.

Women on the rise in tech — more still to be done

It’s clear that there’s still much to be done to encourage women into tech. Computer science courses attracted 24,020 women applicants in 2021, compared to 117,295 male applicants. This equates to just 17% of applicants being women, although it is higher than the 13% figure in 2013 – the lowest point in the last decade.

Analysing the most recent data, artificial intelligence courses have the highest proportion of women of all computer science courses, although the figure is only just over one in five (21%).

Software engineering courses have seen the largest increase in the share of women applying –  just 8% of applicants were women in 2010, this rose to 14% in 2020, a 66% increase.

Overall, the UK is seeing a growing surge in applicants studying to enter the tech industry — a 57% increase compared to a decade ago. Other findings from the data analysis include the increasing number of over-35s retraining in computer science courses, rising by 19% compared to pre-pandemic levels.

With the pandemic highlighting the importance of reliable, efficient and secure technological solutions for the public and private sector, it’s crucial that the UK is able to produce graduate tech talent to serve the growing need.

Graham Lane, Director of Cheeky Munkey, says:

“Demand for IT professionals is as strong as ever, especially with disciplines like artificial intelligence set to grow rapidly in the coming years. Failure to meet demand, by shutting certain groups out, and the UK could be left behind in an industry that’s crucial to the economy.

“The sector can only benefit from more perspectives and different experiences, and employers get much greater choice when it comes to finding the best people for each role. 

“Graduates provide fresh thinking and come to businesses equipped with the latest in IT theory. The more graduates – whether they’re men or women – entering the industry, the better the pool of talent available.”

Danielle Keegan, Head of Permanent Recruitment at VIQU:

“Universities are now very aware of the lack of women in technology and are actively putting initiatives in place to attract women to study tech-focused courses. [According to] a PwC UK research report titled ‘Women in Tech – Time to Close the Gender Gap’ 78% of students could not name a famous female working in tech. I believe companies need to be actively working with schools and universities in order to highlight the achievements and work of women in tech. 

“Companies need to implement a solid D&I strategy [and] focus on creating a recruitment strategy that removes unconscious bias from the process [to help further encourage women to apply to business IT roles]. I think that the more companies we see adopting recruitment processes like this, the more women we will start to see in tech workplaces and the more women and students will be encouraged to pursue a career in tech.”

Amit Kapoor, Director of Mindful Contract, a recruitment consultancy that focuses on interim resourcing for major digital transformation programmes, says:

“Many employers aren’t comfortable acknowledging, let alone declaring, that they have a representation problem. Language in a job description needs to be tempered to give assurance that the workload is manageable without requiring lifestyle sacrifices. Also, consideration should be given to the fact that women tend to apply to jobs where they meet a higher percentage of the specifications stated, compared to men. Therefore, stating broad themes instead of a long list of specific requirements would work better.

“We recently launched a campaign for a banking client that had identified women as an underrepresented category. We stated this position as-is on our job advertisement, explicitly encouraging application from women. This yielded a higher-than-usual rate of applications from women.”

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