There is currently much talk about the issue of the lack of women in the technology industry and what can be done to address it. Tech City covered this in their latest magazine issue and one school of thought is that more girls should be coding from a young age. There are many groups that have emerged that are encouraging the next generation to code including The Girls Network and Tech Girls.
I don’t disagree that a solid grounding in coding is vital but I passionately believe another big issue that is holding girls back from pursuing careers in technology is a lack of confidence to compete in a male dominated industry. It’s not just about teaching girls to code or encouraging them to take maths. Girls also need to be taught from a young age that they can achieve anything they put their mind to. Sadly, so many still don’t feel they can.
I went to the first girls school in the country, North London Collegiate School, whose alumni include Anna Wintour, Rachel Weisz, Esther Rantzen and Roma Agrawal. Our headmistress would often tell us there are “no glass ceilings”. It was instilled in me from the age of 7 that I could achieve absolutely anything I put my mind to. Every time in my career I have come across sexism or felt isolated as a woman in a male-dominated world I have had the deep rooted confidence to rise above it as I know I can achieve anything if I work hard. I am sure this contributed to me feeling confident being the only woman on a Management Team of men with an average age of 40 when I was 22, and having the conviction to launch my own business 5 years later.
I can’t speak for all women but I know many over-analyse and have a desire to plan things out, especially those who plan to have children. Some women will therefore choose slightly safer career paths at a younger age as they lack the confidence to attempt to try and “have it all”. They write themselves off at a young age and many never manage to reach their full potential. If more girls were equipped with the self-belief to succeed as well as the skills to code then I really believe we would have more women in the technology sector as well as in fact in the boardroom across all sectors.
There is no one answer to this problem. Instead a number of things need to come together and work in unison and for me it is critical that girls are taught soft skills as well as technical skills to ensure they can thrive in the technology world. Benjamin Southworth, founder of 3 beards and ex Deputy CEO of Tech City, agrees. He is currently setting up a Free School in East London focused on preparing 16-19 year olds for successful careers in technology & digital. He tells us "The Ada Lovelace Academy was founded to ensure that the next generation of entrepreneurs of all genders are equipped with the skills and philosophies to achieve at the highest level, free from the discrimination and institutional bias”. With Benjamin setting the agenda we are sure it will contain the right elements for success - and here's hoping just as many girls sign up as boys.
By Sophie Eden
(Please join us and other sponsors of the Ada Lovelace Academy by making a donation at their website http://adalovelaceacademy.com/.)