Women laughing with Surface tablet in park

Want more women in tech? Companies need to relate to us, girls say

Technology companies must relate to girls better if they want to increase the number of women choosing a career in the sector, according to new research.

Seven to 14-year-old girls are very comfortable using technology such as mobile phones and tablets but are put off considering future employment in the area because of how the industry communicates with them, the data showed.

Girlguiding, which boasts 554,053 members, spoke to 43 of its young members and found that more needed to be done to encourage young women into the sector.

 Just 13% of all those working in occupations classed as STEM (including health occupations) are women (689,000)

Gill Slocombe, Girlguiding’s Chief Guide, said: “With more girls than boys dropping STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] subjects throughout school we want to explore further why this is the case and what needs to change to ensure girls feel these subjects and related careers are open to them and inspiring for them.”

The girls, who called technology “fun”, “cool” and “creative” in the survey – which was funded by Microsoft – offered five ways that companies could connect with them better.

    • Start young As girls get older, the more they reject the idea of pursuing a future in technology especially when making subject choices and decisions at school.
    • Unleash creativity with purpose Computing sessions should be fun, interactive and hands-on, with opportunities to explore how technology can solve problems in the world.
    • Be relevant When talking about technology and related careers, use familiar examples that girls can relate to from their everyday lives.
    • Words matter The creative, people-centric and design aspects of digital careers appeal more than technical descriptions of specific technologies.
    • Meet us Tackle perceptions, encourage girls and build their confidence by providing opportunities for girls to meet women already in tech roles.

Emily Roberts, 14, from the 1st Binfield Guides said: “I use technology every day to communicate with friends and family but I hadn’t given much thought to jobs within technology-based industries as schools tend to make using computers quite boring.

“I think that if I learnt about jobs in technology in an interactive, imaginative and fun way, maybe I would be more interested and encouraged to find out more.”

Woman writing on large touchscreen

The findings emerge amid widespread concerns over the lack of young women entering the workforce in STEM sectors.

According to the WISE Campaign, which encourages girls to pursue STEM course at school, the number of girls studying STEM subjects drops between GCSE and A-Level, with a lower numbers of females compared with males being entered for all such subjects. It also found in 2014, just 13pc of all those working in occupations classed as STEM were women (689,000).

The Girlguiding report highlights that we need to do more to inform young girls about digital careers

Theresa McHenry, Senior HR Director at Microsoft UK, said: “The Girlguiding report highlights that we need to do more to inform young girls about digital careers, and at Microsoft we couldn’t agree more.

“Microsoft has been inspiring young people about computing and tech careers for many years, and we have a range of programmes to help them explore the exciting possibilities including DigiGirlz, Get On, and our partnership with the BBC micro:bit.

“We’re proud to join forces with Girlguiding to listen to the voice of girls, and use that to improve our work engaging girls with computing, coding, and related careers.”