Why women are key to closing the UK’s technical skills gap

Three women sitting around a wooden desk with open laptops working and laughing


With this in mind, Nicole Neumarker, Chief Technology Officer at WorkForce Software, explores three ways that women from all backgrounds can break into the industry, removing the glass ceiling once and for all.


However, recent research shows that demand for digitally skilled workers continues to outgrow the level of digital skills available. 

Unfortunately, many tech companies are failing to close this gap due to the continuation of gender-based STEM discrepancies. Even though women account for 39% of the global workforce, they account for only 25% of STEM jobs. One of the main barriers preventing more women from breaking into the industry is the stigma that STEM is exclusively for those specialising in mathematics or technology. However, contrary to popular belief, there are plenty of roles within the industry that don’t require a master’s degree in quantum computing.

Nicole Neumarker, Chief Technology Officer at WorkForce Software

With this in mind, Nicole Neumarker, Chief Technology Officer at WorkForce Software, explores three ways that women from all backgrounds can break into the industry, removing the glass ceiling once and for all.  

Nicole has over 20 years of enterprise software experience setting strategic direction, leading people, and ensuring results across business, operations, technology, and finance functions. In her role as CTO at WorkForce Software, she oversees the product strategy and delivery of solutions directing the Product Development, Product Management and Cloud Services teams. Together, these groups design, develop and deliver industry-leading products globally and ensure a high quality, scalable and secure cloud SaaS software delivery platform for WorkForce Software and its customers.

Prior to WorkForce Software, Nicole was the Executive Vice President of Development and Innovation at Cotiviti. Nicole holds a degree from Brigham Young University and is an active female leader in STEM programs.


Encouraging more women into the tech sector requires a two-pronged approach – one that serves those women already some way into their career, and one that helps create a fairer opportunity for entry for future generations. 

For many, a passion for STEM may start in their mid-teens and be fostered at university or college in their early twenties. However, you only get to that stage with a foundational understanding of maths, which starts as early as five years old. So, the path to a STEM career begins extremely early. Yet, for a mixture of institutional and cultural reasons, girls are disproportionately alienated from these subjects. The unfounded stereotype that girls are better suited to language-based or creative topics, whilst boys are ‘more logical’ is a prime example of how this gatekeeping happens. Therefore, access to a foundational level of mathematics and scientific understanding is key to unlocking an interest in pursuing this for further education and at the professional level. 

However, these cultural and educational changes will be of little use to those women navigating their careers right now, who didn’t necessarily have equal educational opportunities but have an interest in entering the UK’s growing tech sector to pursue new opportunities. Therefore, employers need to create a welcoming and supportive space for women to enter STEM teams, offering training and upskilling opportunities that not only benefit the individual but also align with the objectives or needs of the business.  

Additionally, the transferable skills of project management and leadership, analysis, and planning, which most professionals will already have acquired in previous roles, are valuable assets for the move into STEM. The historic gender gap in STEM skills training means women currently make up just 16.4% of the IT Engineering workforce – but this isn’t a reason for tech leaders to continue to hire more men than women. Instead, leaders can move the needle by spotting those women with great potential and curiosity and giving them the opportunity to enter teams later in their career by utilising their existing, transferable skills and supporting them with more specific upskilling support. 


People forget that the tech sector requires a whole cohort of tech skills that are incredibly teachable. For those who are unable or opt not to take the higher education route, self-earned qualifications and online courses can be an effective stepping stone into the industry, as it highlights to employers that an individual is determined and keen to learn, which are two core skills that are required for any role. 

However, when it comes to breaking into the industry, women can’t be what they can’t see – meaning that female role models will also play a vital role in encouraging and supporting women to consider opportunities in tech. For example, a female CTO could play a significant role in inspiring her pharma company’s female factory workers to consider new upskilling opportunities. However, for this to work in practice, we must enhance two-way communication between the frontline and HQ and close the gap in creative thinking.  

For those looking to develop in their current organisation, employees should proactively pursue upskilling opportunities that align with the needs of the business. At the same time, employers must keep in mind that many female employees may struggle to take on additional training if they are being held back by inflexible schedules (inflexible shift work, for example), with many also juggling ‘invisible’ labour at home.  

In a digital world, this can be made easier by providing employees with access to ‘in the flow of work’ L&D technologies. Offering this via one centralised solution, employers can more easily distribute bite-size curriculums that are aligned with business priorities. Such platforms would enable employers to easily and regularly communicate new opportunities to their dispersed workforce.  

Amid today’s talent crisis, tech businesses need digitally skilled workers to remain competitive.

By addressing the needs of women to help them develop crucial STEM skills – by encouraging more women to consider a new career path through increased incentives and access to role models, as well as identifying upskilling opportunities for existing female employees – organisations will reap the many-known benefits of a diverse and inclusive workforce, one that is equipped for a digital future.   


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