International Women's Day 2022: New research shows the digital sector is ‘not a welcoming space for women’ | NCFE

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International Women's Day 2022: New research shows the digital sector is ‘not a welcoming space for women’

International Women's Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women, whilst also recognising the challenges that women face every day. This year’s theme is break the bias’ sharing the message that we're each responsible for our own thoughts and actions, and that we can all work to break the bias in our communities, workplaces, schools, colleges and universities.  

Yet, the idea of ‘breaking the bias’ may need to be taken even further, as new research shows the extent to which women feel disheartened about seeking a career in the digital space. 

‘Not a welcoming space’ 

A new poll has revealed that nearly 4 in 10 (39%) women are discouraged from entering the digital sector because they do not feel it is a welcoming space for women. 

The exclusive research, that we carried out through Censuswide, found this issue was particularly acute among 16-24-year-olds specifically, with almost half (45%) feeling discouraged. 

Drawn from the responses of more than 1,000 women aged 16-34, the findings highlight the structural and deeply gendered issues still facing women who would otherwise look to pursue a career in a rapidly expanding sector. 

More than half of respondents (53.5%) believe their school or college did not provide them with the skills or understanding required to pursue a job in the sector, while nearly half of women (47%) would like to learn more digital skills or pursue a career in the digital industry, but do not know how to do so. 

In January 2020, the UK Government noted that the digital sector was worth more than £400 million a day to UK economy – a figure which will likely increase in the coming years as more and more roles become digitised. 

However, our findings confirm that there are still huge strides to be taken to make it a more accessible sector for women. More than a third of respondents (35%) believe the sector will always be dominated by men, while 44% (51% among 16-24 year olds) believe that a lack of female role models makes them less likely to pursue this as a career. 

Commenting on the results, Brona Brillant, Transformation Director for NCFE, said: 

“These sobering results reflect the deep-rooted issues women face when looking to access the digital sector. These are also issues which are only going to become more acute, as the sector continues to grow in size and influence. 

“Not only does the current system hamper gender equality, but also signifies major issues on a larger economic level. The country cannot hope to be competitive on a world stage in the digital sector if more than half the workforce feels alienated from entering it in the first place. 

“The best way to tackle this is to ensure women have the access, skills and qualifications required to break into the sector. Making sure there are accessible courses for women of all ages will make a huge difference and begin to push through the cultural change which is desperately needed.” 

Kate Daniels, Portfolio Director at NTT DATA UK, said: 

“It’s clear that overdue change is needed to make the tech sector more inclusive and welcoming to women. For too long, businesses have relied on the same narrow pool of candidates, missing out on the rich range of skills and perspectives that can only be provided by an equal and diverse workforce. 

“At NTT DATA UK, we have implemented a variety of initiatives which seek to foster an inclusive working environment and make careers at NTT DATA UK both accessible and welcoming for all. We remain committed to supporting a diverse and inclusive workforce, and to promoting diverse and inclusive practices across the wider industry as a whole.” 

Changes are happening 

Despite this picture, according to our analysis of government data, the number of females starting ICT apprenticeships has doubled (from 16% to 31%) between 2016 and 2021, which is fantastic to see. At NCFE, we believe it’s hugely important to create quality routes into this sector – for all individuals. We were selected by the Government to spearhead the development of the flagship digital T Level qualification, created in collaboration with employers. We’re also responding to learner demand and the high growth of the sector with new digital end-point assessments in Data Analysis and Data Technician, which are in development. 

Access further resources and help to #BreakTheBias by visiting the International Women’s Day site, or read more about the digital qualifications and opportunities we provide at NCFE. 

The best way to tackle this is to ensure women have the access, skills and qualifications required to break into the sector.

Brona Brillant, Transformation Director at NCFE
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