Lack of Women in Computing: Head's Feature Article and Women in Computing Event, 9 January
Opinion article featured in the Times and Sunday Times, 2 January, 2024.
Our Head, Mrs Carol Chandler-Thompson, recently discussed issues surrounding the lack of women in computing. Click Lack of Women in Computing to read the full article in the Times.
Smartphones and computer keyboards are designed for male hands; Google's speech recognition software voice is 70 per cent more likely to respond to men's commands.
The World Economic Forum surveyed Linkedln users who self identified as possessing AI skills: 78 per cent of them were male. Our current gender-based approach to product design is disadvantageous to women and there is a real danger that algorithms are making our world even more unequal.
With the end of January marking the deadline to apply for university courses, it is stark that of the students enrolled in a computing degree at university in 2020-21, only 21 per cent were female, so it is no surprise that women account for a similar percentage of the tech workforce.
Dig deeper and you realise that social, educational and cultural issues play a huge part. At a recent women in tech event in Edinburgh, 100 schoolgirls were asked about technology. They said STEM was perceived as dull; it involves sitting at a keyboard all day, is not taught well and they didn't see it as a career option. Uninspiring curricula and a paucity of specialist computer science-teachers, especially female ones, are exacerbating this.
Demand for digital technology talent in Scotland is strong; one in ten of all vacancies is in the tech sector, and it is forecast to grow. Without concerted effort, there will not be enough women entering digital roles to fulfil requirements.
Girls' schools, in which the uptake of STEM subjects tends to be far higher, can offer insight to help address the imbalance.
Women in Computing Event, 9 January
This week, we will welcome girls from state and independent primary schools across Edinburgh to show them the real-world careers that computing can lead to.
Download the programme for our Women in Computing event, 9 January. We are delighted to be welcoming our speakers: Leah Hutcheon, CEO Appointed; Blair and Noreen, The National Robotarium and Edinburgh Futures Institute; Abbie McCallum, Natwest software engineer; Tannya Gaxiola, Turing Fest; and Nicola Huskie, CCO i-confidential. We also have a wide range of tech companies exhibiting.
The commercial world wants to support schools in this and we have been delighted by the willingness of women working in tech to give up their time for such events. There are also some initiatives being run by passionate individuals, such as Toni Scullion's charity, dressCode, but until the structural issues around teacher training are addressed this problem is going to endure.
Young women run the risk of being shut out of a huge global sector and the impact of this will be a tech-driven world designed for men. Scotland isn't providing enough "home-grown" digital tech workers, of either sex, to fill its vacancies. Work in teacher training and schools to make it a more attractive career option will not just benefit girls, but the whole of society.