THE BLOG

Learning the Language of the Future

02/06/2016 17:11 | Updated 02 June 2016

It is well documented that the technology world has a problem with a shortage of skilled workers and a worrying gender divide.

Last year, women accounted for less than a fifth of the UK's IT workforce. Just 13 per cent of computer science students are female and on the Forbes list of 100 leading tech investors, only four are women. Hillary Clinton has spoken frankly on the issue. She said: "We can literally count on one hand the number of women who have actually been able to come to Silicon Valley and turn their dreams into billion-dollar businesses. We're going backward in a field that is supposed to be all about moving forward."

The number of jobs required by the technology industries is predicted to significantly exceed every other sector. By 2020, the European Commission has predicted a shortfall of 900,000 adequately skilled programmers. There is a real risk that the gender gap in the sector will only get worse unless something is done soon.

Columnist and writer Caitlin Moran observed: "If 90 per cent of coders are men, developing and owning the language of the future, women won't be part of the conversation."

The gender divide does not reflect women's real-life engagement with the digital world. Not only do women consume all types of technology and social media, but the average gamer is now a 43-year-old female and women account for 52 per cent of the UK gaming audience.

We therefore must question why there is an absence of women in the coding world. Why are they engaging with technology as consumers but not studying creative computing courses or applying for jobs in the technology industries? We hear a lot about the stigma associated with coding, the lack of female role models and the way parents raise their children in a gender stereotypical way which fails to introduce their daughters to computing.

The disparity doesn't make sense and I believe is dangerous in the long term. Women are the world's most powerful consumers, and make up half the potential workforce. Women need to arm themselves for employment in a digital world or risk being side-lined from the future jobs market.

The lack of women entering the computing or coding sectors is part of a larger trend - girls are on a par with boys throughout school, but when it comes to studying science, technology, engineering and maths at university, there is a decline.

At Bath Spa University we are championing gender parity in education through our campaign, #ThisGirlCodes. Launched to inspire and encourage more young women to enter the technology industry, the project addresses the many myths that surround this traditionally male-dominated sector.

We are showcasing women who are currently working or studying in areas such as coding and software development with the aim of inspiring the next generation of coders, animators and game makers. We want women to see that it's not just a job for maths graduates, but more akin to learning a creative language.

Women need to realise that coding will provide a gateway into today's job market and that without it, they could be increasingly marginalised. We need to support women as they enter the industry, providing mentors and role models so female coders don't become disillusioned or lost as they break new ground.

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