Half of young women consider technology “unexciting” as many of them believe tech careers are associated with engineering, architecture, telecommunications and finance, rather than more interesting fields such as retail, luxury, travel, fashion and beauty.
A study commissioned by e-commerce group YOOX NET-A-PORTER GROUP (YNAP) has offered a fresh insight into the lack of participation of women in the technology sector. The lack of participation has always worried experts considering that, according to a report by the Center for Cyber Safety Education, only 8% of all cyber security workers in the UK are women.
Tech careers are ‘unexciting’ for women
It’s not that women do not want to take up technology careers because they aren’t excited as much as men are about it, but because many of them think tech careers are associated with less-exciting sectors such as engineering, architecture, telecommunications, and finance.
According to the YNAP study, the participation of women could have been higher had technology jobs been associated with more exciting fields. While only 7% of women associate tech careers with retail, just 8% associate them with fashion, and only 5% associate them with the luxury sector. Deborah Lee, Chief People Officer at YNAP, thinks these are misconceptions and must be addressed.
“It’s common to think of someone working in isolation, writing line-after-line of code when we think about careers in tech, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Today, tech is a creative and flexible discipline, where consumer products and experiences are designed in a collaborative environment.
“This is especially true of tech and fashion, which together offer a wealth of opportunity which can only increase as these two industries continue to converge through e-commerce,” she said.
The study also revealed that parents can also have a major role to play in influencing young girls to choose technology careers. While less than 5% of parents associate the fashion industry with a successful career in technology, 36% of them would encourage their children to study tech-related subjects if they knew it would lead to a career in fashion.
While the study can help schools and local councils ensure better exposure to technology for young girls, this isn’t the first time that research has been conducted to gain insight into why women have such little participation in technology.
Greater exposure to technology a must
A study carried out by Kaspersky lab revealed last year that as many as 52% of women did not have any interest in computing as a career and 45% of them didn’t know enough about cyber security careers. At the same time, only 36% and 7% of women were inclined to choose mathematics and IT respectively as their preferred subjects at school. Compared to 20% of men, only 16% of women had a clear idea of what cyber security experts did.
With the average age at which women decided on their future career being just 15 years and 10 months, the lack of understanding about cyber security and the lack of coding experience played a part in them not choosing cyber security as their future career options.
“This suggests a need for young girls to have access to advice and information about the industry at a younger age, so that they don’t rule it out in favour of more traditional professions such as lawyers, medics or teachers that have long-established career paths,’ the firm said.
Commenting on the results of the YNAP study, Tara O’Sullivan, CMO at Skillsoft, also said that encouraging women to get into STEM ultimately starts with education – from school to the boardroom.
“In school, coding should be mandatory for everyone; complex problem solving and critical thinking should be part of every day life. Getting female talent into the industry is only half the story, however. Making sure they rise up the ranks is also key – with the support of women in leadership training programmes.
“Ultimately, a lot needs to change if we are to close the gender gap in STEM. Through education and encouragement of both women and men, we can chip away at out-dated biases and create a more equal workplace,” she added.