Maggie Berry: HR departments should be proactive in encouraging young people to take STEM subjects

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Recently, the Telegraph broke the news that the annual workforce survey, conducted by the Institution of Engineering and Technology, showed just three per cent of engineering technicians are female. This is compared to five per cent three years ago. The survey also revealed that four per cent of IT technicians are women, down from seven per cent back in 2008.

The article suggested that government initiatives could be the solution to this dearth of women in the technology industry. Government incentives for young people to go into the technological industries would undoubtedly be a positive step. But what can HR departments and recruiters do to proactively encourage young people, and, by extension, young women, into the technology industry?

Waiting for a Government initiative is not enough. HR departments and recruiters need to be starting in schools and encouraging their existing technical staff to give presentations on the different career paths that STEM subjects can lead pupils to. This will create a positive image of the technology industry, particularly for young women who may be put off by the male-dominated nature of the industry.

There are organisations out there doing similar things, such as SATRO, a charity focused on bringing employers and schools together in order to encourage more students to take STEM subjects. But there needs to be even more involvement – and on a national scale. Initiatives need to be launched, not just by the Government, but by businesses themselves, in order to specifically target young people with an aptitude for technology.

So why should recruiters and HR departments care about educating schoolchildren? What’s the return on their investment? The answer is, quite simply, because they’re creating an all-important talent pipeline for the future, one that will eventually result in more placements – and a stronger industry all round.

You may be reading this and wondering why I’m providing such a long-term solution to a problem that needs a quick answer. The truth is that there is no quick fix to a barren talent pipeline. Although there are short-term initiatives that could inspire women on the market with the right qualifications to advance in their career, the lack of qualified female IT professionals needs to be addressed right where it starts – at school age.

Encouraging school children to take their careers in that direction will not only create a larger talent pool of both men and women, but will naturally address the issue of the lack of women in the technology sector. This has to happen when young women are choosing the exam subjects that will shape their futures so at GSCE level (or earlier if possible), in sixth form when students are choosing to specialise in their A-levels and just before university, when that all-important post-school course selection is made.

The solution is to promote the technology industry as one that’s attractive to both men and women – not just to attract the women of today, but to attract the women of the future too. If you’d like to find out more and e-skills UK’s current Girls in IT campaign, please go to: http://www.womenintechnology.co.uk/girls-in-it-campaign

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About Maggie Berry

Maggie Berry, Managing Director, Women in Technology

Maggie Berry is Managing Director of Women in Technology, the career site and recruitment service dedicated to increasing the number of women working and achieving in IT. She has been involved since Women in Technology’s inception in the autumn of 2004 and manages all aspects of the website and the networking activities Women in Technology organises.

The network now has nearly 7,000 members and the job board is helping a wide range of investment banks and technology firms to recruit more women into their IT divisions. Her background is in technology recruitment within the financial services where she spent four years as a recruiter with McGregor Boyall Associates. Prior to this she worked for NatWest as a Graduate Banking Manager, providing financial advice to final year university students and graduates. Maggie is a graduate of the University of East Anglia.

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