Scotland needs all its WITs

Monday 6th September 2010

Scottish businesses, including Cisco, Dell, IBM, HP, and Oracle, as well as Scottish Enterprise will launch the Scotland Women in Technology group at IBM’s Greenock site to encourage more women to take a leading role in the technology sector where women account for just one in five of the workforce.

Scotland currently lags the UK by 30% on productivity gains derived from ICT. Despite being an attractive career option for women for reasons including the ability to work flexible hours, low female participation rates start early, at GCSE/standard grade level) and this increases to higher/A level.

Lena Wilson, (left) CEO, Scottish Enterprise, will address the meeting under the subject of ‘inspiring role models’.  

Eileen Brown, chairwoman of Intellect Women in Technology group, and CEO of Amastra, a key advocate for advancement of women in technology, will discuss the benefits of networking with the group.

Among those attending will be members of the sparky Girl Geeks  and Polly Purvis, executive director of the trade body ScotlandIS who pays credit where credit is due reporting that Cisco and IBM have done much of the hard work involved to to launch the group.
The Women in Technology group already exists in the UK. The aim of Scotland Women in Technology is to attract, inspire, empower and retain women by developing a community and network to help grow women’s contribution in IT businesses.  It is intended the group will grow to include technology women from other business in Scotland.

Nicola Sturgeon, (right) deputy First Minster of Scotland, and Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, is supporting the new group and said, "I support and encourage the development of women in industry and the opportunity to share experience and examples of good working practice in the promotion of issues which impact on women.

"Through good working practices, Scotland Women in Technology will contribute to, and benefit from, an efficiency and understanding of practical working which can only be a positive step for the future."

The group is the brainchild of (left) Silka Patel, an executive assistant at Cisco. Silka was involved with a similar group in London and could see the benefits of encouraging women into technology in Scotland too. 

“Technology businesses really encourage flexible working styles that are more family friendly and very productive.  For example, my line manager is based overseas, but I can work and communicate  with him effectively using technology.  This has been a real benefit at the moment as I am six months pregnant!”  she comments.

“This sector is a brilliant place for women to work and progress, yet we are very much in the minority. With this group we hope to encourage more women into this exciting area, to develop their skills and so maximise the contribution to our economy.”

In Scotland, women still account for less than 20% of the workforce in science, engineering and technology, despite the flexible working styles, career and economic opportunities this sector represents.  In the UK 1.2m people are employed in the IT workforce, which has doubled since the early 1990s, yet the representation of women has steadily declined and continues to do so.

Although females taking IT related qualifications in secondary education are low in number, they consistently outperform their male counterparts.  The supposition is that if females were more inclined to participate in IT careers the pool of available talent for IT employers might improve noticeably, with a positive effect on the economy.

ICT industry is key to Scotland's economy.  According to eskills, (which has just launched the Business IT Guide for the Outer Hebrides) fully exploiting technology is the single most powerful lever the UK can employ to achieve a wholesale productivity gain right across the economy.

Lena Wilson, CEO, Scottish Enterprise, said: "As a nation it's important that we encourage women to raise their aspirations and really grab the exciting opportunities that exist within IT and the wider technology sector. By offering this kind of support, SWiT can provide women with the mentoring and networking opportunities as well as the confidence and skills that are needed to take on a leading role in the technology sector.

"It's networks such as these that can help women build a successful career, think globally and really fly the flag for Scottish businesses."

As well as offering networking and mentoring opportunities amongst the members, the group will reach out to schools and universities to influence young women to consider a career in IT.  Mentoring will be organised to assist young females already working in the sector to raise their aspiration and be bold in their career plans.    

Almost 100 women will attend the first conference. The event will also include a panel group with executive speakers from each of the member companies.

Linda O’Donoghue right , IBM Greenock Site Executive, hosting the event has the telling last word. “It is recognised that we are seeing a gradual increase in the number of women appointed to Executive positions, but still there are barriers, real or  perceived,  in place for women looking to grow in the their career and reach the boardroom.

"The Scotland Women in Technology group will encourage women to build relationships and use those relationships to drive business opportunities and their careers.” 

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