Some of the biggest names in industry have set up graduate programmes to boost the shrinking number of women in technology roles. Scroll down to discover more...
The article was originally published by The Guardian
Hannah Ellis, 26, joined KPMG’s technology consulting graduate scheme in 2015 after completing a degree in history. She found herself drawn to the accountancy firm’s approach to new graduates: “They were very accepting of people from different backgrounds as long as you were bright and willing to learn, and that was what really appealed to me.”
Along with other graduates, Ellis received intensive training in consulting and in technical subjects, such as data analytics. Since then, her skills have been put to a wide range of uses at the company, including managing a project for a government client and working on data visualisation and reporting for a pharmaceutical company. She has also recently completed a secondment to explore ways in which KPMG could transform its digital strategy.
The proportion of technology jobs filled by women has been shrinking, but KPMG is determined to buck the trend. Two years ago, the firm set up IT’s Her Future, a programme to boost the numbers of women joining the company in technology roles. Part of its focus has been on improving graduate recruitment by drawing from a bigger talent pool – looking beyond traditional redbrick universities and taking more grads from non-IT or non-Stem backgrounds. First-year female undergrads who may not have thought about a career in tech are invited to an insight week, to learn about the opportunities available. “We’re now having a big success in converting those coming through to our graduate programme,” says Anna Somaiya, who heads up IT’s Her Future.
KPMG says that the proportion of female graduates going on to take up technology roles at the firm, after the programme, has already increased from 36% in 2015 to 54% this year. And efforts to attract graduates from a non-tech background have been particularly fruitful too, Somaiya says: “When you look at the top talent pool, you’ve actually got a large number from classics or history doing really well in technology. And a large proportion of those are the ones pushing for the next grade.”
Increasingly, technology businesses are realising that having a workforce that reflects their customer base can be an asset. As George Brasher, the UK and Ireland managing director of IT firm HP, says: “Having a more diverse team gives you a better chance of winning. At HP we firmly believe that the more points of view a business can draw on, the better its products and the company as a whole will be.” Last year, half of the company’s interns (students on placements as part of their third year) were female, and HP is signed up to the Tech Talent Charter, which commits employers to recruiting more women into the sector.
Another organisation aiming to encourage more women into tech is Code First: Girls, a social enterprise that trains women in IT skills and helps corporate companies to develop more female‑friendly recruitment policies. Each year it compiles a list of Ones to Watch, naming 25 women under 30 who are building successful technology careers. One name on the list this year is Lauren Collis, 28, who initially worked as a primary school teacher after graduating in sports development and coaching. Dissatisfied with her job, she started to teach herself coding, and then took some courses with Code First: Girls. Two years ago, she was taken on by consulting firm Sparta Global, where she attended a three-month IT boot camp. She is now part of a Sparta team working on overhauling technology at an insurance firm. “I have quite a blended role,” Collis says. “I’m an analyst and a programmer and a team lead as well.” It’s a challenging job, she adds: “Every day is different, and you’re always learning.”
Like many other women, Collis has discovered that the lack of a computing degree hasn’t held her back. Her advice to others considering a career in technology? “Be prepared to step outside your comfort zone, and let go of the fear of failure. You just have to take that leap and embrace the opportunity to learn from any challenges you face.”