Swindon’s BCS launches campaign to encourage more women into IT roles

By Anita Jaynes on 1 June, 2015

IT departments in the region need to develop a culture that supports diversity to help increase the number of women in the profession according to Swindon based BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT. Numbers of women in IT have fallen from over 20% to 16% in recent years. Research shows that organisations with a diverse workforce are more profitable, innovative and productive.

Gillian Arnold, Chair of BCSWomen, a specialist group in the Institute that supports women in IT, explains: “If the UK is going to fill its skills gap in technology, remain competitive and a leader in innovation then we need to encourage all businesses to develop a culture that supports diversity in their IT departments.”

In the Institute’s own business technology department, women represent 33% of the team.

Gillian added: “Employers can support diversity by considering such things as how they recruit, and retain women.  This means looking at recruitment practices, unconscious bias, pays gaps, flexible working options and lots more.   When we get this right, the research suggests that companies benefit from greater earnings and profits and better innovation.

“However, we also need to encourage girls to study computing at schools and university so that employers have a talent pool to select from; hopefully we will start to see the numbers of girls studying computing increasing following the introduction of the new computing curriculum. Finally, we also need to provide role models for girls and women so that they can identify with the profession, understand how they could be part of it and also realise that the opportunities on offer are very wide ranging – it’s not all coding.”

Today’s call for action by the Institute comes as it launches its annual month long online campaign which features female role models talking about their experiences of working in IT.

Harvey Appleby, Hannah Waite, Linda Fisher, Katrina Zoldak, members of the Institute’s own business technology team have recorded video interviews to appear in the campaign. They will appear alongside blogs from over 20 women including Baroness Shields, Minister for Internet Safety and Security, Christine Ashton, Thomson Reuters, Helen Milner, the Tinder Foundation, Christina Scott, the Financial Times, and Lesley Cowley. The role models also include women who are undertaking IT apprenticeships and those who work in different aspects of IT such as trainers, lawyers and journalists.

Lisa Woodall, Interim Head of IT Architecture at Swindon based Zurich Insurance has supported the campaign with a blog post which will appear on 2 June. Lisa said: “My advice for anyone thinking of a career in IT; go for it! It’s well paid, it provides huge variety; no two days are the same. It’s got to be one of the most diverse professions to join, with a wide range of technical and business facing roles providing different career paths to all who join. If you have strong communication skills, can solve business problems, can articulate people’s concerns, enjoy planning events, working with diverse people from across the globe and have some artistic flair then there are plenty of roles in the profession that could appeal to you.”

As part of the campaign, BCSWomen will also be running an app-a-thon to attempt to break a Guinness world record for the most number of people simultaneously learning to code an Android app on 13 June at over 30 locations across the UK. All the classes will be led by women who work in IT.

Blogs will appear daily on the campaign website: www.bcs.org/itwomen2015
More information about the app-a-thon can be found at www.bcs.org/appathon

Pictured above: Gillian Arnold, Chair of BCSWomen