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Published on : Monday, November 11, 2013
Network Rail’s chief information officer is so concerned about the rapid slide in the number of women entering the UK’s IT sector, she has launched a new competition for girls which will see the company pay the winner’s first year of university fees.
The competition – Could IT Be You – has been designed by six women in Network Rail’s 500-strong IT team led by group CIO Susan Cooklin, and aims to show girls what working in IT is really about and the career opportunities open to them. The latest figures from e-skills UK shows the proportion of women working in technology roles in the UK has more than halved since the 1980s* despite technology becoming an increasingly integral part of our every-day lives.
A new survey for Network Rail of 16-24 year old women in the south west of Britain revealed:
-71% of women have not considered a career in IT.- 25% had but were not currently working in the industry. – Negative stereotypes put 12% off pursuing a career with 40% saying it was a lack of technical skill. A further 44% said it was inadequate career advice or little insight into the industry.58% believe that a high level of technical expertise in computer programming or code is the most important skill for a successful career in IT. 21% thought a degree or college qualification in a technology subject was most important.- Only 2% thought good project management skills were the most important with only 6% citing good communication skills as the most valuable.
From 2008-12 the percentage of women in IT roles at Network Rail has grown from 26% to 28%, but only 20% of those applying for the company’s information management graduate scheme were female.
Ms Cooklin said: “Popular culture has helped create a perception amongst young women that a career in IT is all about writing code in basement offices – the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Could IT Be You aims to break down those myths and help young women realise how the skills and behaviours they already have – such as good communications, problem solving and working creatively – are exactly what business leaders are after. While there are people in my team who are technical experts with IT-related qualifications, there are just as many whose skills lie in other important areas and do a critical job delivering the IT projects that make our railway run better.”
The six women who devised the competition all work in IT project management roles at Network Rail. Only one has a technical subject undergraduate degree – the others studied History, English, Psychology and Philosophy, and Biochemistry and Pharmacology. Three of the women went on to study for the MSc in Project Management devised by Network Rail in partnership with the University of Warwick and University College London.