Recently I was invited to a careers evening at my school, St. Georges in Ascot UK, to speak to young female students about what it is like to work in the technology sector. Each of the speakers invited was asked to prepare a 20 minute presentation on their job and the sector they worked in and then participate in a roundtable discussion with the girls so that they could ask questions.
As I came to prepare my presentation, I came to a standstill. As a former student of the school, I was well aware that the school had invested in computers and the girls would be using them on a regular basis to help them with their homework, connect with friends and browse the web. But on the other hand, despite increases in the number of women entering the workforce over the past few days, only 18% of IT & Telecoms professionals are female, down from 22% in 2001*. Despite efforts by the government to renovate the education of information and communications technology within schools, somehow technology is falling off the radar for most girls when they are deciding their career paths.
I decided to use my presentation to investigate this conundrum. Before I began working in the technology sector, I thought technology companies were habitats for geeks – the dorky boy next door with the large black glasses and happy face t-shirt. Perhaps these sophisticated females also had the same preconceptions? I focussed my presentation on all the cool stuff I got to do in my job – blogging, setting up video conference units in children’s hospitals across the UK & Ireland so they can speak to Santa at Christmas and using social networking tools like Facebook and LinkedIn to help me be better at my job.
This has got to strike a chord right? I mean I’m basically telling these kids that I get to use Facebook in the office and don’t get told off for it! But I was wrong. What interested my audience the most was the idea of a career in communications and not only that but being able to do communications in a technology company. This led them to ask what other careers are available in the technology sector and when I answered with the word ‘anything’ – HR, Legal, Finance, Engineering, Sales, Social Media lead, Corporate Social Responsibility – their minds exploded. The most popular question in the roundtable discussion was “How did you get into the technology sector?”
I think there is a lot of work we can do to educate young women on the opportunities within the technology sector. We need to get to know the young women of our time, find out what they are interested in and what they are passionate about, and then show them that the technology industry can help them achieve their goals and aspirations. The world is their oyster.
* e-skills UK, Technology Insights 2011