A new initiative promoting greater use of female role models and mentors in schools has been launched as part of Scotland’s strategy to tackle the gender imbalance in digital technology.
The project is part of an action plan developed in response to new research which found that women account for 18 per cent of those in digital technology roles in Scotland, with the gender gap in the talent pipeline starting at school.
The report, Tackling the Technology Gender Gap Together, identified female tech role models and mentors as an important means of helping young girls to envisage a future career in the sector.
To have the greatest positive effect the role models need to be inspirational, credible and close enough in age to their audience that young girls can relate to them and their career path.
The project will be delivered by Girl Geek Scotland on behalf of Skills Development Scotland and partners in the Digital Technology Skills Group, which commissioned the new research.
Girl Geek Scotland is calling on schools, colleges, universities, tech employers and organisations working in this area to complete a survey to help it map current role model and mentoring initiatives and is particularly keen to hear from those that involve females in digital technology. There is a dedicated survey for schools and another for organisations and institutions.
Once mapping is complete it will work to promote initiatives to schools across the country with a directory of mentoring activities and best practice case studies gathered from industry.
Role model and mentoring opportunities will be promoted to female students and young females working in digital technologies roles to galvanise them into volunteering. Resources and training materials will be created to support volunteers and encourage a best practice approach, and making it easier for schools and volunteers to get involved.
The Scottish Government has an ambitious plan to make Scotland a world-class digital nation by 2020. This initiative is one of a number of actions developed by the Digital Technologies Skills Group to increase the number of women working in digital technology careers.
Evelyn Walker of Hewlett Packard Enterprise and chair of the Gender Work Stream for Digital Technologies Skills, says:
“Role models and mentors are an incredibly valuable way of communicating just how much is possible if young people choose to embark on a computing science qualification. They can also show that there are a range of routes into the industry including IT work experience; Modern Apprenticeships; internships and graduate programs.”
“It’s really important that students and younger members of the workforce get involved with these projects. For that to happen we also need employers to recognise the value of giving staff time out of the office to take part. I know from my own experience that participation in such schemes helped with my professional development and volunteers can learn a lot to help with their own career aspirations.”
Morna Simpson, founder of Girl Geek Scotland, says: “There are many role model initiatives already doing great work in Scotland and the aim of this project is to provide the basis for further widening provision and support.
“We want to hear from as many organisations as possible in response to our surveys so that we can create a full map of activities and encourage greater use of role models and mentors across Scotland.”
Resources will be created with support from Digital World, the careers campaign for Scotland’s ICT/digital technologies sector. Developed by industry in partnership with Skills Development Scotland, Digital World highlights the many opportunities available for people with digital technologies skills and showcases Scotland’s success stories in the sector.