Network Rail launched a competition in a bid to halt the slide in the number of women entering the UK’s IT sector.
The competition – Could IT Be You – has been designed by six women in the 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.
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 North West revealed:
• 63 per cent of women have not considered a career in IT
• 31 per cent had but were not currently working in the industry
• Negative stereotypes put 9 per cent off pursuing a career with 35 per cent saying it was a lack of technical skill. A further 35 per cent said it was inadequate career advice or little insight into the industry.
• 55 per cent believe that a high level of technical expertise in computer programming or code is the most important skill for a successful career in IT.
• Only 4 per cent thought good project management skills were the most important with only 7 per cent 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 per cent but only 20 per cent of those applying for the company’s information management graduate scheme were female.
Susan 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”
Ruth Stevens, a 26 year-old Network Rail IT project manager who helped develop the competition said: “It’s not always easy to know at 16 what you want to do for a job when you’re in your twenties, or even what you might be good at.
“By sharing my experience through the competition, I want to help open this exciting world up to others, especially young women, who may not realise all the great things they could do. I did English at university and now I’m an IT project manager..”
To enter, girls aged 16-18 years can visit a new website www.couldITbu.co.uk
Fifty entrants will be invited to a networking day at Network Rail’s national centre in Milton Keynes in February. Here they will have the opportunity to meet influential business women from various industries, learn valuable skills such as CV writing and interview techniques. They will be asked to record a minute-long film about their experience of the day. Those who record the top four films will win two weeks work experience at Network Rail during the summer of 2014 and continued mentoring with the best winning all this as well as the first prize of having their first year of university fees paid.