Claire Vyvyan, vice president of enterprise solutions at Dell EMEA, writes:
Today, only 17 per cent of women work in technology, an astonishing figure given the affect that it has in our everyday lives. The ‘new frontier of technology’ lies before us.
After many years of campaigning, women now have the chance to shape this new economic landscape. How can we break the mould of a male dominated industry to bring more women into the world of IT? How can we ensure that the education young people receive today will create opportunities for their future?
We need to give girls a launchpad to realise their capabilities and the aptitude they might have for the IT industry and continue this through to further education.
As the Further Education Learning Technology Action Group (Feltag) recommends, young people must be empowered to fully exploit their own understanding of, and familiarity with digital technology for their own learning.
My father did that for me by encouraging me to read maths at University. Whilst I didn't know it then, it was one of the best decisions I ever made. It opened my eyes to the possibility of technology and when I learned to code on IBM punch cards I was hooked.
Having been given the taste, I was able to work at some of the largest technology companies in the world, including Microsoft, Compaq and Dell. My technology career has allowed me to travel all over the world but the best part about my job is seeing the difference the technology I work with can make in the daily life. I've seen the effects IT solutions can have when introduced to hospitals, aiding medical research, catching bad guys and protecting citizens, the government and companies from cyber threats.
The gender imbalance in STEM subjects is a worrying statistic for our industry. I was lucky to find a route into technology at an early age, but it's not necessarily an area that girls consider because of the stereotypes associated with it. Part of the challenge is that many girls just don’t find science and technology education appealing due to the way it’s presented in society, schools and further education institutions. According to Harvey Nash’s 2015 report, women that did study STEM subjects through choice did so mainly because they had a particular aptitude for those subjects, rather than passion for them.
This fact suggests a need for women to have some form of reassurance that they have talent in this area and it’s a viable career option. It's important that as an industry, we start talking to young girls about their future early on and continue to actively show them the benefits of working in IT through to further education. Innovation is happening at a rapid pace and there's no reason why women can't aspire to be the next Mark Zuckerberg.
Knowing that I am a part of something that changes lives is what makes the IT industry fascinating to me. I want more women to know that they have that same opportunity - and that's why I work with Dell's "IT is Not Just for Geeks" programme. With this programme I join other Dell team members going into schools and speaking to students about what a career in technology can offer. It's not just about coding or programming - it's a vast industry. It is a simple message to deliver but it is crucial to driving enthusiasm and greater awareness.
Showing girls the opportunities available in technology to make a real impact on the world is crucial - particularly before they start making decisions about A-levels, university and ultimately their careers. With new IT curriculums being out in place, we have the chance to encourage a radical change in our industry make our companies as diverse as our marketplace. There is space in the new world for everyone and it's time for women to seize the opportunity in front of them.