IT, it’s not just for boys

  • Richard Protherough
  • 17/01/2016
  • Candidate
  • Recruitment
  • Insights

There is a stereotype that needs to be addressed; that the IT and Telecoms industry is ‘just for boys’. This misconception is putting off women from pursuing a career in an industry that is ultimately very female friendly. It is one of the biggest obstacles preventing many from embarking on what could be a rewarding career and something that we need to work hard to overcome.

As long as parents, teachers and career advisers are consciously or unconsciously giving out a message that IT is just for boys, the gender imbalance will remain. We need to debunk this myth and start talking about the excellent and rewarding careers in our sector for all, regardless of gender.

However, how do you get started in a career in IT and Telecoms? And if gender doesn’t matter, what does? Unlike some careers which have just one route to get ahead, the IT and Telecoms sector is inclusive with multiple paths to a fulfilling career. It is a sector that rewards merit and offers opportunities to school leavers and graduates alike as well as welcoming professionals from other sectors.

Our latest research discovered that although a third (32%) of IT and Telecoms professionals took a planned academic route into the industry, the majority did not.

A significant number (18%) entered straight from school, college or university without having studied ‘relevant courses’ and four in ten (41%) moved from a different occupation.

But are any of the routes better than the rest? Ultimately, does how you get your start in the sector affect your career prospects?

I have worked in recruitment for the IT and Telecoms sector for 15 years and have placed candidates at every level from trainee to CIO and in my experience no one route trumps the others. All routes offer the chance to have a successful and rewarding career. What really matters is your enthusiasm and determination when working in the industry.

Interestingly when we drilled down into the research we found that there was very little difference between how men and women entered the sector. The real differences emerged when we compared age groups. Transferring from another career, is significantly higher in those aged over 40: 55% of women and 49% of men over 40 had taken this route.  It makes sense that talented professionals looking for a new challenge would gravitate towards IT and Telecoms, bringing with them their experience and best practice from other disciplines. 

One question that is asked more and more, both by those working and those considering a career in the sector, is whether in an age of increasing digital literacy IT qualifications are still relevant?

I think it is advantageous that we have all become more technologically competent. Today children possess a digital understanding and technical know-how that would have previously required extensive teaching. I believe this has created a much wider pool of digitally skilled individuals who may opt for a career in IT and Telecoms. This is a huge asset to the sector, as a bigger pool of talent means the chance to recruit people from a wider range of backgrounds, with different ways of thinking and more creativity.

But are IT qualifications still relevant? While by no means a requirement to work in the sector, I believe they are still crucial. Whilst it is a challenge for schools to keep up and effectively teach a subject that is advancing so quickly, I firmly believe there is a place for IT on the curriculum. It is important to remember that those who study Computer Science and Engineering and Technology at the highest levels have an understanding that is far beyond basic digital literacy, and are frequently the innovators pushing the sector forward.

The IT curriculum, at all levels of education, is evolving as the need to equip students with digital skills becomes increasingly essential. On a personal level, the most important attributes for any students, graduates or those already working in the sector is an inquiring mind and willingness to learn. Those who will be most successful in the sector will be those who relish learning about new innovations. A career in technology is an opportunity to embark on a lifetime of learning, and employers will value and reward employees who actively seek new skills and strive to get to grips with the latest advances.

To get into IT, it is not essential that you started programming at age four or studied a particular subject at university. You can choose to enter straight from school, or as a graduate having studied a different subject, or you could transfer from a different job. It is a growing sector that recruits on merit, rather than how many boxes you tick or what gender you are.

If you’re interested in finding out more about this topic, read more from our findings from the breakfast seminars on Bridging the Gender Gap in Leeds, London, Birmingham and Edinburgh. Our guest speakers included Lucie Sarif from Lady Geek and Alexa Glick from Microsoft.