Females find it harder (31%) to secure their first tech roles compared to men (21%), survey shows 

Almost a quarter (22%) of 16-17 year olds have decided to pursue a career in tech since the pandemic.

That’s according to research from UK scaleup Talent Works , which surveyed UK students and tech professionals in the early stages of their careers on their education and the journey into tech.

The research, conducted among 400 students and young professionals, coincides with the launch of the ScaleUp Week , which brings together UK scaleup leaders to explore the crucial issues facing growing businesses today.

Large vs small organisations

Talent Works’ survey also found that the majority of young tech professionals are encouraged by their academic establishment to join large organisations upon graduating (46%). In fact, graduates are often encouraged to overlook small and scaling companies and 23% are given no career advice at all. Despite favouring large organisations over fast-growth businesses, the UK startup and scaleup ecosystem had a record year  in 2020, with UK tech startups valued at £422.55bn.

Different experiences for male and female talent

When it comes to starting their careers, only 7% of young professionals found it ‘very easy’ to find their first role, and women were more likely to find it hard (31%) compared to men (21%). A fifth of all respondents (21%) also felt that tech courses at university don’t provide valuable post-degree business insights, emphasising the gap between the university experience and entering their first tech role.

When asked who encouraged them into technology, parents (27%) and teachers/the education system before university (24%) were the top choices, followed by professors/the university system (18%) and role models (15%). Women were more likely to be encouraged by teachers/education (54%) than men (29%), whereas men were more likely to have parents that took STEM subjects (44%) than women (21%).

However, when it came to young professionals ranking their tech education, women were less likely to rank their tech education as very good (17%) compared to men (26%). Over half of women (54%) also rated the guidance they received as ‘poor - neutral’ compared to only 41% of men.

Chair of ScaleUp Institute, Adam Hale, commented:

“Preparing and equipping students across the UK to join the tech sector has never been more crucial. There is a huge disparity between the amount of women in tech compared to men, and it starts in schools to encourage and support their interest in tech. Take A-Levels, for example. Computing is the 19th most popular subject overall, but is the 28th most popular subject for women. By not encouraging women into STEM while in school and the education system, the tech sector is missing out of the next generation of brilliant tech minds.”

Paul Newnes, Head of Innovation at Talent Works, added:

“The number of tech roles is increasing at an incredible rate, but the UK needs a new generation of tech talent to enter these roles. Encouraging young people into STEM begins at school and university, but we need to ensure that these students have the right guidance to help them start their careers. With so many exciting tech startups and scaleups in the UK, the next generation of tech talent should be encouraged to join organisations of all sizes, rather than limiting themselves to only the major players.”

Agata Nowakowska 100x100Agata Nowakowska, AVP EMEA, Skillsoft, said: 

"It's great to see an uptake in students pursuing a career in tech, however with females finding it harder to secure their first tech roles, it's clear that gender disparities remain. There are so many programmes aimed at getting girls interested in these areas, but we need to go further to challenge and eradicate the old fashioned views that are clearly still very much ingrained in the public consciousness. That's why the onus is on parents, teachers and business leaders to show that there is a place for girls in STEM – they need role models and sponsors to encourage them to take the path.

"Organisations should also focus on learning and development efforts for women. A report by McKinsey Global Institute revealed that around 30% of UK workers face having to transition between occupations or skill levels by 2030 due to technology adoption. So it makes pure business sense for organisations to invest and upskill their female workforce. Helping them to learn a new programming language such as Python, or engage their cloud security skills can support the business, allowing it to flourish and create a culture of innovation."

Leane Parsons, Change Manager at Node4, said:

"According to TechNation, £10.1 billion was invested into UK tech companies in 2019, with employment in the sector growing by 40% in comparison to two years prior. But despite this growth, just 30% of these roles are occupied by women. I strongly believe it's difficult to fully challenge the inequality in tech until more women are in positions of power within the industry. We continue to be led by the top, which is predominantly male, and this feeds into the existing technical landscape slanted towards male audiences. 

"Seeing more women in leadership roles and positions of influence will inevitably lead to more women joining the industry, as well as more girls hoping to study an IT or tech related subject at university or in an apprenticeship. This year, I #choosetochallenge gender equality in tech. Let's encourage more girls and women to join the tech industry, so we can move from being the outliers, to having equal representation at the table."

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