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How can we attract and retain more women into tech and engineering roles? 

Female Chemical Engineers Female Chemist Working in a Lab, women in engineering

ARTICLE SUMMARY

Gayle Terry, Chief Marketing Officer & President of Domestic & General US, looks at how we can attract and retain more women into tech and engineering roles.

As we observed International Women’s Day on March 8th, it offers an opportunity to celebrate the remarkable achievements of women throughout history and across the globe.

It also serves as a poignant reminder that there is still much to be done to close the gender gap and forge inclusive work cultures. Although the UK tech sector is booming, the representation of women remains low, with women only making up a quarter of the tech workforce in the UK. To add to these concerns, research shows that half of women who are working in tech drop out by the age of 35. 

In the modern business landscape, every company needs to expand its recruitment network and attract a wide range of talented individuals. Increasing the presence of women in technology positions is not only vital for fostering a tech industry that is more diverse, inclusive, and equitable, but it can better address the needs of society as a whole.  

Attracting and retaining more women into tech and engineering roles requires a multifaceted approach that addresses various barriers and challenges. Some key strategies include: 

Education  

Tackling the skills shortage in the tech and engineering sector starts with education. There are still misconceptions and a lack of understanding around the job natures of engineers, and the wide-ranging skills and fulfilling career paths they offer. This underscores the importance of exposing students to STEM subjects and hands-on learning experiences from an early age, empowering them to make informed decisions about their future careers. While subjects like maths and science are taught in schools, the connection between these subjects and their real-world applications needs to be emphasised to help students explore a wider array of career paths. At D&G, we collaborate with a network of engineers which enables us to complete 2.5 million repairs annually. We’re looking to the engineers of tomorrow to help innovate solutions, and a key aspect of this is fostering an understanding among students of how engineering can positively impact the environment and contribute to building a more sustainable world. 

Recruitment strategies  

Gender is too often treated as a checkbox item. Implement inclusive recruitment and hiring practices to attract and retain a diverse talent pool. This could involve attending women-focused tech conferences, partnering with organisations that support women in STEM, and leveraging professional networks. One recent example at D&G is our partnership with Code First Girls to sponsor women on the Full Stack CFG degree course, providing them with opportunities to build up coding skills and switch to a career in tech. These types of courses not only play an important role in the education and training of women in tech, but also in providing job opportunities and work experience at the end of their degree. 

Professional development  

In the rapidly evolving tech industry, upskilling programs are important to help employees acquire new skills and stay on top of emerging technology trends. Whether it be in-person workshops or webinars that help to develop technical skills, leadership abilities, and confidence, providing access to tailored training programs for women demonstrates a commitment to gender diversity and inclusion. When companies fail to retain women in technical roles during the early stages of their careers, they ultimately cultivate fewer women for senior positions. 

Flexible work  

Achieving a realistic work-life balance is a struggle that most working people face, but it can be even more challenging for working mothers. No one, whether women or men, should be penalised for taking a break to start a family. Improving access for women returning to work after taking time off, especially for maternity leave, is essential. Implementing policies such as flexible working, parental leave, and mentorship programs which support work-life balance and career development. At D&G, we operate everyday flexibility with no mandated days in the office and are currently testing a system where staff can have school holidays off to look after their children.  

Culture  

Challenge stereotypes and biases that discourage women from entering tech and engineering fields. For those in a management or leadership role, it’s important to create opportunities for employees to provide feedback on the work culture and to actively listen to their concerns. These suggestions can inform initiatives and policies aimed at creating a more inclusive and supportive workplace environment. 

Role models  

Another key factor to help close the gender gap in male-dominated fields like technology is the presence of female role models. Representation matters, and role models play a pivotal role in breaking down stereotypes and inspiring young girls to embark on careers in STEM. To inspire more women to pursue careers in these fields, role models need to be visible by highlighting their achievements and contributions through conferences and industry events. At D&G, I’m proud that as the company transitions into a data-led platform, recruiting everything from data science professionals to technology and data engineers, to digital marketing experts, that we have women in leadership positions such as our chief product officer, our head of engineering and our director of data strategy, who continue to inspire teams with their drive and leadership.

As companies in various sectors compete for tech talent and aim to boost innovation, it’s crucial for them to focus on the policies and cultural elements that foster the best possible conditions for employee engagement. By implementing these strategies, businesses can work towards attracting and retaining more women in tech and engineering roles, ultimately creating a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

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