When it comes to getting a greater number of women into digital careers, there’s a huge mountain to climb. As our report, Getting to Equal, demonstrates, men have a higher rate of ‘digital fluency’ (the extent to which people embrace and use digital technologies to become more knowledgeable, connected and effective). Yet nations with higher rates of digital fluency among women also have higher rates of workplace gender equality. Digital fluency, therefore, has a significant impact on women’s potential to achieve workplace parity with men.
However, as Emma Mcguigan, Accenture’s senior managing director Technology UK&I, has said: “Creating a gender balance in digital isn’t only ethical: It’s important for the economic growth of the UK.” The country faces a huge digital skills gap and requires another 745,000 workers with digital skills by 2017. If these roles aren’t filled, there’s no question that our economy will suffer. Women represent a huge pool of untapped talent to help fill these positions and ensure UK plc continues on a growth trajectory.
Inspiring young girls to pursue a career in digital
Solving the digital gender imbalance must start at a young age. As a digital employer, we at Accenture are playing our part in helping to prepare the workforce of the future. We want to inspire young girls to consider the job opportunities on offer in digital, and to study the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects required.
That’s why we support several STEM initiatives for young girls, such as the STEMettes and our own Girls in STEM programme. In 2016, Accenture hosted five Girls in STEM events at locations across the UK for 1,800 girls aged between 11 and 15. The girls tried coding, attended workshops and heard from inspirational speakers from the STEM sector. The events had a real impact. As one teacher put it: “[Girls in STEM] really inspired [my pupils] to…see that they could perhaps, one day, have the same sort of career.”
Women break away from careers in technology at an early age, seeing it as a male subject unrelated to their aspirations. We want to build girls’ digital fluency from a young age so they grow up inspired by the breadth of opportunities available to them in digital.
Getting young women into work
There’s also a need to help young women who are actively looking for work, especially as they are more likely to be caring for children, and relatives, and have to juggle those demands alongside job-seeking and work. Young women are more likely to need flexibility, such as working from home or flexible hours—something which digital fluency can help achieve.
One way we support young females who are not in employment, education or training to join our business is through Movement to Work, an employer led movement comprising of over 250 businesses looking to tackle youth unemployment through offering work experience offers and job placements. At Accenture, we actively recruit young women to undergo digital training and work experience at our offices. We also invite the most promising and enthusiastic young women to join our apprenticeship programme so they can move directly into work.
In the next blog in this series, we’ll hear from Amy Killoran, the first female graduate from our apprenticeship programme, and hear her thoughts on the gender imbalance in digital.
Getting more females into digital careers requires inspiring them while they’re young, giving them the skills they need to be digitally fluent and then supporting them as they move into work. If we can get this right, we’ll go a long way towards opening new opportunities to thousands of young women across the UK and help narrow the gender gap in the workplace.