YUNOJUNO

Shrinking the gender gap

How the tech world can be a force for greater gender equality in STEM roles.

WHITE PAPER 2022

FOREWORD

0

Foreword

Gender equality and the pay gap between sexes are two constantly recurring issues in today’s workplace. Whilst the environment might be dramatically different from half a century ago, the drive for equal representation and income parity remains at the forefront of the equality agenda.

Whilst many industries have these challenges, the sectors of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) consistently under-perform when discussing the idea of gender equality. This study aims to ask why such a significant gender gap exists and how can employers as well educational institutions attract more females to help balance the sector.

As the world emerges from COVID-19, and embraces new ways-of-working with the rise of distributed teams and hybrid work models, new opportunities can arise for removing bias, levelling up the pay gap and encouraging higher involvement from groups with insufficient representation.

It is our privilege to highlight, encourage and suggest pathways for a more egalitarian workforce. In fact we believe the freelance economy can provide incredible examples of equality and a non-biased value exchange to the labour market as a whole.

Our background

Data has been analysed from over 30,000 freelancer bookings on the YunoJuno platform between 1 Jan 2021 and 31 Dec 2021. The data collected is part of our statutory reporting requirements, which currently only support male/female options. Therefore this study is only based on freelancers who have self-identified as either male or female and does not contain data on non-binary to other gender non-conforming statuses. We recognise that people self-identify outside of the traditional gender definitions. It is worth noting that the current UK census forms include more insight into gender and so the Government appears to be taking steps in reassessing current definitions and identification options.

Our contributors

This report is both the gathering and presenting of real-world data on the issue of gender equality. But it would not be possible without the incredible contribution of the following contributors sharing their own experience on the issues discussed as well as opportunities ahead of us. From the entire team at YunoJuno - thank you!

Shib Mathew
Founder and Executive Chairman, YunoJuno

Contributors

Luisa Mauro
Head of Brand, Makers

15 years in industry

Hannah King
Freelance Creative Developer

21 years in industry
17 years freelancing

Mary Hughes
Freelance Front-end Developer

15 years in industry
9 years freelancing

Gintare Zemaityte Platform Engineer

4 years in industry

Vanessa Ramos
Senior QA Analyst

18 years in industry
5 years freelancing

Sally Northmore Engineering Lead at iX, IBM

15 years in industry
6 years freelancing

Kingsley Ijomah Software Engineer and Founder of Codehance Bootcamp

15 years in industry

Report team

Joana Pereira
Art director and Graphic Designer

Emily Wood
Copywriter

Kat Shepherd
YunoJuno Senior Marketing Manager

Koysor Abdul
Web designer and Webflow Developer

Pay gaps and gender disparity

1

1.

Pay gaps and gender disparity

Our data reveals a 21% pay gap between developers in favour of men. Sadly, this divide is larger than any other discipline. Just 7% of women currently working as freelancers within the development sector in 2021, leaving a 93% gap.

This is the biggest gender – and pay – gap we’ve recorded as a freelance platform and these figures are reflected throughout the industry in the UK. There are some considerable challenges ahead to address this disparity that not only impact women in and outside the technology sector but across the entire UK workforce.

A recent report published by the BBC* highlighted just 13.5% of executive director roles were held by women in 2021, down from 14.2% the year before. Not only is this a decrease for women working at the board level but a step backwards for the UK workforce. This decline is further supported by data from PWC which recorded a decline in employment for women for the first time in 10 years, largely due to the pandemic in 2020. Whilst companies are starting to make changes to reduce the gender gap, particularly with exec-level roles, the issue is much wider than just the technology sector. Greater consideration needs to occur across the labour market in its entirety.

So, how has the tech industry become so male-dominated? And what are some of the solutions to help encourage women back into technology and development jobs to help close the gap?

We spoke to several women in development and tech-focused roles about their own experiences and opinion on the matter.

Some of the key factors that appear to influence the lack of opportunity for women in STEM roles include, inflexibility in jobs, societal expectations with parenting roles, limited opportunities at secondary education levels and even a lack of awareness of STEM-focused opportunities being available to them. These combined with fewer female role models within mainstream tech companies could be creating a perpetual cycle for female representation within the sector.

Introducing girls to coding and the world of computer science is an issue highlighted unanimously by the participants of this study.  Freelance Web Developer, Hannah King, recognised early on the advantage of “being at a more forward-thinking school, we were exposed to a wider range of options for people with more technical skills so engineering apprentices were encouraged as an alternative”. Unfortunately, this experience isn’t widely reflective of school-age girls as just 26% of girls at 18 go on to study STEM subjects in further education.

A prominent theme when discussing the topic of access and opportunity with the participants in this study is the lack of encouragement at the earliest stages of education. According to a Microsoft-led study, girls of secondary school age are far more likely to get into STEM-led subjects from the age of 11. So the question remains – why isn’t more being done to encourage this pursuit at this early age? And more importantly, what improvements can be made in this area?

Let’s first explore the accessibility of learning computer science and IT at secondary school age and in particular why girls aren’t encouraged to take up coding and development?

Pay gap between developers in favour of men in freelance roles
21%
Girls at 18 go on to study STEM subjects
26%

Stem subjects at school

2

2.

Stem subjects at school

Globally, the gap between digital skills and gender tells a different story than the one currently in the UK. With the exception of the UK, Greece, Ireland, Iceland and Hungary, girls are consistently outpacing their male counterparts in digital knowledge across high-income European countries.

It’s clear from this data, that there needs to be a change in the UK when it comes to encouraging girls into STEM-led courses from school as their skillsets are falling behind. Considerable rethinking needs to occur when it comes to how women and young girls are encouraged into STEM-led professions and a clear moment for that change is at education level. This is something the UK Government has openly acknowledged.

A Government report admits that the gap between younger women studying STEM topics at higher-level and employers hiring them comes from “an unmet demand in higher-education skills” from women in particular. This is also despite there being a record number of women studying STEM subjects at University and the availability of £84 million in apprenticeship schemes for people over the age of 24 to encourage re-training in this field.

A further study in the UK by the United Nations found that boys and girls were almost equally engaged with STEM subjects at 10-11 years old, with 75% of boys and 72% of girls reporting keen interest in science. By the age of 18, this drastically fell to 33% for boys and 19% for girls, again supporting the significant lack of younger girls going on to study STEM subjects in further education. In 2021 the number of women employed in STEM positions in the UK was just 24%, according to Cambridge University.

How does this gap develop for younger girls, in particular, to dissuade 81% of them from pursuing STEM-led courses after the age of 18?

Having a supportive environment where you can learn and gain confidence is very important in a field that's so male-dominated.
Gintare Zemaityte,
Platform Engineer

Of all the people we’ve spoken to, only two had studied technology, maths or computer sciences at a younger age, with a further three choosing to learn their digital skills later on in their careers.

King, believes the problem lies in both awareness and access: “I think there are two parts at play here; a shortage of people, in general, coming into the industry across the board which is then exacerbated by the smaller numbers of women going into STEM industries. And there is a lack of general awareness about upskilling and changing career direction into development which is invaluable."

Similarly, Mary Hughes, a fellow developer had a positive introduction at school, helping her discover from an early age that she loved solving problems; “From a young age, I was very good with problem-solving and highly creative. Some of my favourite subjects in school were ICT and art. This led me to further my studies in these subjects at A-levels. Whilst studying ICT I discovered macros in excel, which was my first taste of actual coding. I realised that this could be something that I would enjoy doing for a job – problem-solving with code”.

It sometimes feels like coding is the worlds’ best-kept secret as it’s so flexible, it’s in huge demand and I personally love it. I’d choose to do it all hours.
Hannah King,
Freelance Web Developer

Senior Qualitative Analysis Manager, Vanessa Ramos, also studied a technology-based degree at undergraduate level that informed her employment path: “...having finished an IT degree I had enough knowledge about IT that I could combine with my business aptitude to fit in the world of Software Testing.”

Unfortunately, it’s not the same shared experience for everyone at school-age and like many other women, Gintare Zemaityte and Sally Northmore found themselves studying much later in their careers before starting development and STEM roles. Northmore shares her own path in coding wasn’t as straightforward: "...I came via publishing — the future of the book was digital and that’s where I wanted to be. That’s what’s so cool about coding, there are many avenues that lead to it."

Similarly, Zemaityte’s path to becoming a Platform Engineer didn’t start at a higher-education level; “I was in a job that I really didn’t enjoy and could not see myself having a long-term career in. I was fortunate to go on secondment at that same job where we got to consult clients on disruptive technologies and innovations. Researching this got me interested in software development – I ended up doing an online programming course which I enjoyed immensely as to me programming felt like solving puzzles which were interesting and rather fun. This prompted me to do a computer science conversion degree and pursue a career as a software developer, and here I am today.”

So, how can more girls be encouraged to discover technology, IT and other STEM subjects at earlier school age? The problem it seems is down to a lack of general awareness of these STEM-focused subjects being available at a younger age.

Ramos feels the issue needs addressing earlier on for girls to really understand they have the same opportunities in the technology space as their male classmates: “If you’re trying to change the percentage of women in IT overall then that would need to start in primary schools by exposing young girls to STEM. From there, they’ll hopefully choose to do the IT degrees.”

Zemaityte also feels a proactive way to create change within the industry is to “be willing to train and upskill recent graduates and/or junior developers. I think starting out as a software engineer and getting that first job is one of the most difficult parts of one's career, and so having a supportive environment where you can learn and gain confidence is important.”

Women employed in STEM positions in the UK in 2021
24%

Making your voice heard

3

3.

Making your voice heard

For many women, being ‘the first’ in a STEM role, can feel overwhelming, isolating and sometimes even intimidating. We asked all our interviewees to share their own personal experiences working in a male-dominated environment.

Ramos has always felt her male peers listened to and respected her on the job:  “My experience in Software Testing in a male-oriented discipline has been generally positive and pleasant. If colleagues can see that your work is good, you can keep up and understand technical discussions, then you are treated fairly. In the teams I have worked with, the majority of males have treated me with respect.”

Hughes often feels the need to become her own cheerleader to ensure she is heard: “women sometimes have the battle of being heard and being respected, which can lead to self-doubt and questioning if they are capable. It’s incredibly important to remind yourself of your technical ability and experience to deliver the task at hand”.

However, Northmore shares the harsher side of the gender imbalance; “sexism, inappropriate behaviour, and the low hum of tech bro culture persist”. Encouragingly, however, she also notes the major strides taking place within the industry: “there’s been a concerted effort to diversify conference panels. I remember when Software Engineer Nicole Sullivan was the only female developer panellist. Seeing her made me think— oh, I could do this as a career too, and be an expert.”

The topic of confidence is a repeated theme throughout the study with all interviewed participants alluding to it as being a key driving force for change. Next, we look at how they’ve personally tackled the topic of finding the confidence to pursue a career as a minority within the industry.

Confidence and imposter syndrome

Confidence is also an area King has developed over her career, consciously changing her approach when pitching for work: “I’ve had to learn to be stronger on pitches as there have been times where people aren’t perhaps taking me as seriously as others on a pitch. My ways of working have to be more direct than perhaps I’d be more inclined to in my personal life. I’ve also been able to get a feel for things earlier on, in terms of working with clients who will listen to me more and champion women developers in general”.

Software engineer Zemaityte shares a similar view having found her fellow female peers more likely to doubt their abilities at work; “from my experience, women have a tendency to be less confident and doubt themselves a bit more in a field that's so male-dominated.”

I think there are two parts at play here; a shortage of people, in general, coming into the industry across the board which is then exacerbated by the smaller numbers of women going into STEM industries. And there is a lack of general awareness about upskilling and changing career direction into development which is invaluable.
Hannah King
Freelance Web Developer

King also shares her own experiences during her career; “I’ve noticed in the past that male counterparts progress quicker than possibly I did in my career. You don’t see many higher engineer positions for women which is a shame.”

Imposter syndrome is another recurring topic when discussing women in tech. Northmore  shares; “Usually, it was because I didn’t look or sound like other people who coded, and I didn’t have a computer science background. Luckily you can quickly upskill with online courses.”

Hughes shares her view on dealing with imposter syndrome, as a woman in tech:  “Don’t feel intimidated by a room full of men or even people who don’t look like you. Don’t ever worry about your gender, be strong and focus on doing what you love!  Stand your ground and believe in your own ability, do a good job and you will get the respect and the rewards you deserve. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask questions and remember making mistakes is a way we all learn.”

Overcoming imposter syndrome is something that comes over time and through career development. However, the question remains, if it isn’t confidence or imposter syndrome holding women like King, Hughes, Northmore et al, what is causing the dwindling statistics of women in higher positions within industries such as technology? Are women simply being overlooked for their male counterparts? Or are there other contributing factors when it comes to hiring women for top-paying jobs?

How societal expectations play a part

Referred to as the ‘Motherhood penalty’ by PWC, one of the major external factors to consider when exploring the gender imbalance is the role that the wider society plays when creating imbalances for men and women at work. As well as taking time out of their jobs for maternity leave, women with children are often expected to take up more childcare responsibilities whilst working full time. This unconscious bias follows women from school-age, as results from a recent survey by CPD London revealed. 1,000 school children were interviewed in February 2022 by agency CPD London, and the results found 39% of the 5- to 11-year-olds polled think that women should stay home and 38% agreed that men should go to work.

These unconscious biases are being created at an early age for the next generation of our workforce by external factors such as their own parental influences, reinforcing these traditional expectations on women to put their own careers on hold. If, as CPD London’s survey suggests, these biases are starting at school-age, they are far more likely to impact how younger girls view their own working opportunities later in life.

As a mother and developer, Northmore’s own career experience has been supportive: “I’ve taken maternity leave this year (2022) and I’ve never seen another software engineer who was pregnant!  Luckily, my current employer is amazingly supportive and parent-friendly.”

Hughes echoes the need for the industry to tackle long standing issues that have dictated the work/ life balance for women; “the other major factor that may impact women becoming freelance is the fact that we do not get maternity pay, sick pay and also holiday allowance. I personally feel that the flexible contracting work-life balance, pay and remote working outweighs these fears and if possible I would want to encourage more women to become freelance.”

So, are there fewer women in freelance roles in tech due to external factors such as parenting? Does this impact job security which causes more women in tech to go into fixed term/ perm roles vs. freelance?

This is something Ramos is conscious of when considering new roles “In my opinion, perhaps females in IT prefer the security of permanent roles rather than short term contract roles so they’re not job hunting as often?”.

Flexible working hours to accommodate school pick up/drop-offs for working mums, maternity leave, work from home, mentoring, connecting with other women in the company, equal pay to males, award recognition for women in IT, training, opportunities for on the job upskilling.
Vanessa Ramos
Senior QA Analyst

In order to attract more women in all types of development roles, employers need to encourage flexible working environments. Ramos contests:  “flexible working hours to accommodate school pick up/drop-offs for working mums, maternity leave, work from home, mentoring, connecting with other women in the company, equal pay to males, award recognition for women in IT, training, opportunities for on the job upskilling”. These are just some of the ways employers can attract some of the best female talent.

Instead of women feeling the insecurity of contracting or freelancing in such a high-demand industry, the flexibility of being freelance should be considered a huge benefit, as King shares her own feelings about managing workloads: “Flexibility in a role can work around what your personal life needs. Again, this is across the board now after the last few years and people have discovered not working in offices is a huge benefit.”

Zemaityte echoes the need to promote flexibility in roles; “remote and flexible working is more appealing and with that, I think it's very important for employers to maintain balance in how employees are treated and not fall into favouring those who are in the office (and thus more visible) versus those who are remote.”

Beyond the topic of flexibility, the other area that was a consistent discussion point amongst the study’s participants was the accessibility and great potential a career in technology offered for those who pursued it.

There’s been a concerted effort to diversify conference panels. I remember when Nicole Sullivan was the only female developer panellist. Seeing her made me think— oh, I could do this as a career too, and be an expert.
Sally Northmore
Engineering Lead at iX, IBM

King is enthusiastic about coding being available to anyone; “Coding is a skill that can be learned at any age – by anyone. It’s not something you have to spend years learning to get into”, a sentiment seconded by Zemaityte “more women are starting to see software development as a valid career path they could pursue but they often already have degrees in other subjects and so have to find a different way to get the skills for a software engineering job.”

Being aware of the various opportunities to learn technical skills is another contributing factor to the eventual success rate of equality in the tech sector. Unless you’re consciously exploring a new career path or have pre-existing connections within the tech industry, there is a high likelihood that opportunities, as well as resources, are outside of a person’s awareness.

Women working as freelancers within the development sector
7%
Percentage of women in the entire UK tech workforce
19%

Funding, grants and representation

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4.

Funding, grants and representation

In general, there is a lack of awareness in regards to available financial assistance both for individuals as well as employers. King notes; “It sometimes feels like coding is the worlds’ best-kept secret as it’s so flexible, it’s in huge demand and I personally love it.”

Re-training shouldn’t have to mean giving up your monthly income as the popularity of paid apprenticeships continues to grow thanks to initiatives like government-backed financial support. It’s important that more people are aware of all options available, such as ‘coding boot camps’, that enable people to learn new skills alongside their current profession.

Nearly all of the women we spoke to had re-trained or developed their technical skills later in life which again highlights the lack of encouragement from the education level but also, the incredible courage and determination that can be rewarded with new fulfilling career paths.

It’s incredibly important to remind yourself that you are smart, confident and believe in your technical ability.
Mary Hughes
Freelance Front-end Developer

Gintare Zemaityte feels “employers should be willing to consider candidates that are self-taught or have done a bootcamp instead of a full degree to get a more balanced workforce – I think more and more women are starting to see software development as a valid career path they could pursue but they often already have degrees in other subjects and so have to find a different way to get the skills for a software engineering job.”

Whilst the initial financial investment on these courses may be seen as unachievable for some, the intense coaching and practical training mean most coding ‘boot camp students’ move into development-led roles after just a few months. Coding camps and fast-track courses are other options for anyone with enough funding to focus full-time on learning new digital skills, however, this isn’t always a realistic option as 13 weeks of unpaid leave is a considerable sacrifice for many.

Founder of coding boot camp program Codehance, Kingsley Ijomah, has seen the typical industry gender inequality rebalance, with 45% of his own students being women. This was a conscious move from Ijomah who believes visual representation has had a direct impact on attracting more women to join his course “I make sure that testimonials on my site have women featured even more than men to make it accessible to all. I also tend to focus on the improvement in lifestyle as a bonus to coding so it’s appealing to everyone – and not just men.”

Just including a 50/50 split of testimonials from both women and men on the coding course website has seen a significant uplift in women joining Codehance, something Ihjomah feels is an easy change to make for others “Employers can definitely make it more accessible to women by showing women on their posters and advertisements, and including women developers at the interview phase, so it becomes a norm for new developers to be interviewed by a female developer”.

Coding company Makers Bootcamp similarly takes the same approach, featuring 6 women and 3 men on their homepage testimonials section. Luisa Mauro, Head of Brand at Makers shares that as of 2022, Makers has 46% of women participating in their camps actively taking part in coding classes.

This is another significant measure as both companies actively advertise using women in their marketing and inclusive language across their websites. These seemingly small changes can have a direct impact on who feels represented and even encouraged to sign up, as reflected in both Bootcamp metrics of their students. It also indicates the flexible approach of ‘out of hours’ learning is a far more attractive way of learning for women in general.

Diversity in coding bootcamps, in general, has been widely recognised, as Rachid Hourizi, director at the Institute of Coding, highlights in his interview for Computerweekly; "It's up to the bootcamps to design courses that actively engage with these issues. It's not the people who aren't coming that are to blame. It's the people providing the education and training – the change must be in us.”

As well as ensuring more companies hire women in development and tech roles, it’s also important for more voices to be heard from the existing community. Sharing the supportive communities within the tech industry is essential for promoting real opportunities that exist as well as educating those interested in the most apt pathways to success.

Helping to find the right communities

All of our study participants are active members of various communities – particularly in the areas addressing the topic of women in technology, development and other STEM roles.

These communities have proved invaluable for sharing experiences, helping to build confidence and combating the feeling of isolation, particularly when they’ve found themselves the minority.

Northmore valued this in the early stages of her career: “I joined online and in-person communities. Finding communities of engineers — friends — made a big difference. ” Northmore’s recommendation of choice is ReactJS Girls. Similarly, Ramos is an active member of VIC ICT for WOMEN, a network for supporting women in technology roles in Australia. King shares a couple of communities that are currently offering discounts for women; “Makers actively offer a 10% discount for women in particular who want to join up!”

Northmore also found her own career benefitted when she had a mentor. “I’ve been fortunate to have had a few talented and generous people take me under their wing along the way to mentor and support me.  That’s where I’ve seen my career growth spurt” she notes.

The best way to encourage more women into the industry is to represent them; invite more women to join panels, speak about their own experiences and generally share their own advice about finding a STEM-led job. Communication also plays a significant role – the more women who pursue tech roles have a real opportunity to discuss and promote the potential of a career in the sector.

We asked all our interviewees to share their own advice for anyone considering a new role within the tech industry or perhaps starting a career.

Don’t underestimate your skills and abilities because you’re a female. Be assertive and show what you’ve got. You don’t need to be one of the boys to gain their respect. Be yourself and let your reputation be about your work and abilities.
Vanessa Ramos
Senior QA Analyst
Ask questions, never stop learning and don't doubt yourself – you will probably be on the right track more often than not so just have the confidence to defend and promote your own work.
Gintare Zemaityte
Platform Engineer
Don’t worry about not knowing what you’re doing! Development is often about figuring out how to solve a problem, and that usually means learning something new. Everyone fakes it until they make it, to some degree. Don't be intimidated by the eye-watering churn of new tools and techniques. First get your foundations in JavaScript, HTML and CSS solid. Also, get yourself some mentors. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to show you how to do something, or spend time with you to give you advice and support.
Sally Northmore
Engineering Lead at iX, IBM
Follow your passion and do what you enjoy doing. Don’t feel intimidated by a room full of men or even people who don’t look like you. Don’t ever worry about your gender, be strong and focus on doing what you love!  Stand your ground and believe in your own ability, do a good job and you will get the respect and the rewards you deserve. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask questions and remember making mistakes is a way we all learn.
Mary Hughes
Freelance Front-end Developer

So, what’s next?

Currently, there are around 600,000 vacant tech roles in the UK – this is both a large  number and a considerable opportunity for women in particular that will continue to grow. As more companies rely on modern technology, internal development and innovation to fuel their commercial success and competitive advantage, there is more opportunity to diversify the job market. Being underrepresented within the industry means there is a loss of opportunity for companies and with hundreds of thousands of available jobs, those companies continue to miss out.

Larger tech companies can do more to open up more  apprenticeship opportunities and internships for younger people. The UK’s government apprenticeship scheme is paid too which is something companies should be absolutely offering – there’s no age limit and it’s a paid role. Companies benefit from grants too if they offer apprenticeships for people aged 16-24 too, meaning there are plenty of opportunities to benefit both parties when investing in STEM-led skills.

Initiatives such as elevating female voices within the industry, mentorship, access to training and upskilling are all part of a larger need to create more balance in the technology sector where females and other minorities are not only better represented but also given greater opportunities to excel.  The appetite for girls and women to get into STEM roles exists - and change begins with those in influential positions, irrespective of gender, using their standing to educate, inspire and act.

Vacant tech roles in the UK
600,000

about yunojuno

5

5.

About YunoJuno

YunoJuno is revolutionising the future of work. What started out as a curated marketplace for the creative industries has grown into the leading platform for the UK's elite freelance creative network. Our platform supports the entire engagement lifecycle, from finding the perfect freelancer for your brief, through transparent and direct communication (no intermediary), to contract and time management, billing, and analytics.

We have a single bold mission: Unlock the true potential of freelance. The future of work belongs to both freelancer and hirer. These two sides aren't mutually exclusive but co-exist in driving the changing face of employment. Freelancers are fast becoming the single most valuable workforce in the labour market and this is no more evident than in the creative and tech sector. YunoJuno is unlocking every aspect of this revolution so that the concept of "choosing freelance" is no longer a leap into the unknown but the most strategic and commercial decision you can make.

YunoJuno's beginnings are much like many other good ideas - born from a frustration of the manual process, its founders knew there had to be a better way.What started as a platform to connect the greatest freelancers with a handful of forward- thinking companies is now changing how the creative and tech industry resource their business and manage their workforce.

yunojuno.com

4.

Funding, grants and representation

In general, there is a lack of awareness in regards to available financial assistance both for individuals as well as employers. King notes; “It sometimes feels like coding is the worlds’ best-kept secret as it’s so flexible, it’s in huge demand and I personally love it.”

Re-training shouldn’t have to mean giving up your monthly income as the popularity of paid apprenticeships continues to grow thanks to initiatives like government-backed financial support. It’s important that more people are aware of all options available, such as ‘coding boot camps’, that enable people to learn new skills alongside their current profession.

Nearly all of the women we spoke to had re-trained or developed their technical skills later in life which again highlights the lack of encouragement from the education level but also, the incredible courage and determination that can be rewarded with new fulfilling career paths.

It’s incredibly important to remind yourself that you are smart, confident and believe in your technical ability.
Mary Hughes
Freelance Front-end Developer

Gintare Zemaityte feels “employers should be willing to consider candidates that are self-taught or have done a bootcamp instead of a full degree to get a more balanced workforce – I think more and more women are starting to see software development as a valid career path they could pursue but they often already have degrees in other subjects and so have to find a different way to get the skills for a software engineering job.”

Whilst the initial financial investment on these courses may be seen as unachievable for some, the intense coaching and practical training mean most coding ‘boot camp students’ move into development-led roles after just a few months. Coding camps and fast-track courses are other options for anyone with enough funding to focus full-time on learning new digital skills, however, this isn’t always a realistic option as 13 weeks of unpaid leave is a considerable sacrifice for many.

Founder of coding boot camp program Codehance, Kingsley Ijomah, has seen the typical industry gender inequality rebalance, with 45% of his own students being women. This was a conscious move from Ijomah who believes visual representation has had a direct impact on attracting more women to join his course “I make sure that testimonials on my site have women featured even more than men to make it accessible to all. I also tend to focus on the improvement in lifestyle as a bonus to coding so it’s appealing to everyone – and not just men.”

Vacant tech roles in the UK
600,000

Just including a 50/50 split of testimonials from both women and men on the coding course website has seen a significant uplift in women joining Codehance, something Ihjomah feels is an easy change to make for others “Employers can definitely make it more accessible to women by showing women on their posters and advertisements, and including women developers at the interview phase, so it becomes a norm for new developers to be interviewed by a female developer”.

Makers, a coding bootcamp and specialist tech apprenticeships provider, also takes gender diversity within their marketing efforts seriously, committing to making sure women take center stage in their campaigns to encourage more women to envision a career in tech as achievable and accessible to them and working with community groups such as Coding Black Females to make sure women gain visibility of the opportunities within tech available. Luisa Mauro, Head of Brand at Makers shares that as of 2022, women account for over 46% of those participating across their bootcamps and apprenticeships.

This is another significant measure as both companies actively advertise using women in their marketing and inclusive language across their websites. These seemingly small changes can have a direct impact on who feels represented and even encouraged to sign up or apply for tech apprenticeships, as reflected in both companies' student metrics. As well as representation, Makers run scholarships for women to gain access to their bootcamp training, and skills bootcamps in software development as part of the UK Gov fully funded Skills for Life scheme which are completely free to participants, taking the financial burden away for many that cannot afford tuition fees.

Diversity in coding bootcamps, in general, has been widely recognised, as Rachid Hourizi, director at the Institute of Coding, highlights in his interview for Computerweekly; "It's up to the bootcamps to design courses that actively engage with these issues. It's not the people who aren't coming that are to blame. It's the people providing the education and training – the change must be in us.”

As well as ensuring more companies hire women in development and tech roles, it’s also important for more voices to be heard from the existing community. Sharing the supportive communities within the tech industry is essential for promoting real opportunities that exist as well as educating those interested in the most apt pathways to success.

Helping to find the right communities

All of our study participants are active members of various communities – particularly in the areas addressing the topic of women in technology, development and other STEM roles.

These communities have proved invaluable for sharing experiences, helping to build confidence and combating the feeling of isolation, particularly when they’ve found themselves the minority.

Northmore valued this in the early stages of her career: “I joined online and in-person communities. Finding communities of engineers — friends — made a big difference. ” Northmore’s recommendation of choice is ReactJS Girls. Similarly, Ramos is an active member of VIC ICT for WOMEN, a network for supporting women in technology roles in Australia. King shares a couple of communities that are currently offering discounts for women; “Makers actively offer a 10% discount for women in particular who want to join up!”

Northmore also found her own career benefitted when she had a mentor. “I’ve been fortunate to have had a few talented and generous people take me under their wing along the way to mentor and support me.  That’s where I’ve seen my career growth spurt” she notes.

The best way to encourage more women into the industry is to represent them; invite more women to join panels, speak about their own experiences and generally share their own advice about finding a STEM-led job. Communication also plays a significant role – the more women who pursue tech roles have a real opportunity to discuss and promote the potential of a career in the sector.

We asked all our interviewees to share their own advice for anyone considering a new role within the tech industry or perhaps starting a career.

Don’t underestimate your skills and abilities because you’re a female. Be assertive and show what you’ve got. You don’t need to be one of the boys to gain their respect. Be yourself and let your reputation be about your work and abilities.
Vanessa Ramos
Senior QA Analyst
Ask questions, never stop learning and don't doubt yourself – you will probably be on the right track more often than not so just have the confidence to defend and promote your own work.
Gintare Zemaityte
Platform Engineer
Don’t worry about not knowing what you’re doing! Development is often about figuring out how to solve a problem, and that usually means learning something new. Everyone fakes it until they make it, to some degree. Don't be intimidated by the eye-watering churn of new tools and techniques. First get your foundations in JavaScript, HTML and CSS solid. Also, get yourself some mentors. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to show you how to do something, or spend time with you to give you advice and support.
Sally Northmore
Engineering Lead at iX, IBM
Follow your passion and do what you enjoy doing. Don’t feel intimidated by a room full of men or even people who don’t look like you. Don’t ever worry about your gender, be strong and focus on doing what you love!  Stand your ground and believe in your own ability, do a good job and you will get the respect and the rewards you deserve. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask questions and remember making mistakes is a way we all learn.
Mary Hughes
Freelance Front-end Developer

So, what’s next?

Currently, there are around 600,000 vacant tech roles in the UK – this is both a large  number and a considerable opportunity for women in particular that will continue to grow. As more companies rely on modern technology, internal development and innovation to fuel their commercial success and competitive advantage, there is more opportunity to diversify the job market. Being underrepresented within the industry means there is a loss of opportunity for companies and with hundreds of thousands of available jobs, those companies continue to miss out.

Larger tech companies can do more to open up more  apprenticeship opportunities and internships for younger people. The UK’s government apprenticeship scheme is paid too which is something companies should be absolutely offering – there’s no age limit and it’s a paid role. Companies benefit from grants too if they offer apprenticeships for people aged 16-24 too, meaning there are plenty of opportunities to benefit both parties when investing in STEM-led skills.

Initiatives such as elevating female voices within the industry, mentorship, access to training and upskilling are all part of a larger need to create more balance in the technology sector where females and other minorities are not only better represented but also given greater opportunities to excel.  The appetite for girls and women to get into STEM roles exists - and change begins with those in influential positions, irrespective of gender, using their standing to educate, inspire and act.

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