UK business facing critical shortfall in female tech talent - PwC research

Published at 00:01 AM on 06 March 2017

  • Only 27% of female students would consider career in technology and only 3% say it’s first choice, compared to 62% of males
  • Females are less likely to have a career in technology suggested to them by teachers or careers advisers than males
  • Women put off by male-dominated technology careers
  • Three times more students can name a famous man working in technology versus a famous female working in the sector
  • Technology companies need to highlight their role in making the world a better place to attract more females
  • PwC sets out four point plan to address the gender imbalance in technology

UK business is facing a serious shortfall in future female tech talent as too many young women are being put off pursuing technology careers, according to new PwC research.

PwC’s report Women in tech: Time to close the gender gap, which surveyed over 2,000 A level and university female and male students, finds that only just over a quarter (27%) of females say they would consider a career in technology, compared to 62% of males. Only 3% of females say it is their first choice of career, versus 15% of males.

PwC’s research reveals that the technology gender gap starts at school and get worse at every stage of females’ lives, as shown in Figure 1. The females surveyed say they aren’t considering technology as a career option because they aren’t given enough information at school on what working in the sector involves and because no one is putting it forward to them as an option. 33% of males say they have had a career in technology suggested to them, compared to only 16% of females. Six in 10 females (61%) say they have been put off a career in technology as they simply don’t know what it involves, with only four in ten (44%) males choosing this option.

The report is published as PwC hosts an event at The Science Museum with 100 school girls aged between 14 and 16 to ignite their interest in technology careers.

Figure 1. The percentage of female and male students studying STEM subjects at school and university, and their plans to go into a technology career

Women_in_tech

On the same day (Monday 6 March), PwC is bringing together over 80 senior business figures to discuss how the industry can work together to solve the gender imbalance in technology careers.

Jon Andrews, head of technology and investments at PwC, said:

“Women remain woefully underrepresented in the UK’s technology workforce. Our research shows that this imbalance is unlikely to be redressed any time soon unless we can educate and excite females about the range of technology careers at an earlier age. The gender gap in technology starts at school and widens at every stage of females’ lives.

“There is a real opportunity for the industry, schools and universities to work together to show young people - and especially females - the reality and range of technology careers in today’s world. We need to start creating the building blocks for the future of the UK’s technology industry at a much younger age.

“Getting more females into technology doesn’t just make smart business sense, it means that organisations can develop and deliver emerging technology solutions based on a broader range of perspectives that are fit for their entire customer base. Greater diversity of thinking will fuel the innovation of the future.”

Lack of female role models a major barrier

PwC’s research reveals that a lack of visible female role models working in technology further exacerbates female students’ perception that the sector isn’t for them. Only 22% of students can name a famous woman working in technology, whereas three times more (66%) can name a famous man working in technology. The male role models are also suggested by far more students than each female role model mentioned, with Bill Gates and Steve Jobs the most cited technology role models.

The importance of role models is compounded by the fact that more than a quarter (26%) of female students say they’ve been put off a career in technology as it is too male dominated.

Sheridan Ash, women in technology leader at PwC, said:

“It’s worrying that such a low number of young females aren’t considering technology as a career option and this is largely because no one is putting it forward as an option to them. It’s hard for girls to aspire to what they can’t see - we need to shout louder about the great women already working in technology and work harder to promote more women to senior and visible positions.”

The technology education gap

PwC’s research reveals that to encourage more females to consider technology careers, the industry needs to work closer with schools and universities to demonstrate how technology is being developed as a force for good. When considering their future careers, the females surveyed are more interested in feeling like the work they do makes the world a better place over salary or having a good work/life balance. Only interesting work ranks higher on females’ wishlist. Whereas, salary is the second most important factor for males - rated important by 44% of males versus 32% of females.

As well as wanting more information on what technology careers involve, both male and female students don’t feel they are learning enough at school about emerging technologies. Over three quarters (78%) of students say the amount they have learnt about different types of technology at school is not enough, with 37% of those students saying it is nowhere near enough.

Jon Andrews, head of technology and investments at PwC, said:

“Like other technology organisations, we know from our own experience of trying to attract more women into technology roles that it takes focus and dedication to start to narrow the gender gap. Getting it right is such as fantastic opportunity for those in the technology industry to tap into a wider source of talent. If we can come together as an industry to solve this important problem we will have a far greater impact.”

Sheridan Ash, head of women in technology at PwC, said:

“Highlighting the role technology plays in solving the world’s important problems could be the differentiator that sparks wider female interest in the sector. From my own experience of working in the technology sector I have seen first hand the positive real-life impact technology can have on a wide-range of areas. Technology careers have evolved considerably over the past decade and we need to make sure that women play a greater role in shaping what they look like in the next decade.”

PwC’s four point plan to get more females into technology:

  1. The technology industry should play a greater role in educating students about technology, and how it’s shaping the world we live in, at an earlier stage of their lives. This could include developing technology teaching modules that can be delivered in schools or universities.
  2. As well as awareness, we need to create more alternative routes into technology careers. This could include increasing the number of apprenticeships available and technology companies partnering with universities.
  3. We need to highlight more female technology role models and work harder to promote those already in the sector.
  4. The technology industry needs to make sure that the sector provides an inclusive working environment where everyone can reach their full potential.

Ends.

Notes for editors.

  1. The research was conducted on PwC’s behalf by strategic insight agency Opinium. 2,176 students were surveyed across the UK between 27 January and 6 February 2017. This breaks down to 554 female university students, 532 male university students, 548 female pre-university students (classified as those studying for A Levels, BTEC or equivalent) and 542 male pre-university students.
  2. You can find out more about PwC’s research and download a copy of the report at pwc.co.uk/womenintech
  3. For interview requests or photos of the event, please contact Amy Tiernan, tiernan@pwc.com or 020 7804 0556.

Ends.

 


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