We need more Women in Tech

With International Women's Day around the corner, we hear from Charlotte Bascombe (Configuration Manager, and RSA Women in Tech member) who shares her passion to get more women into tech.

6 March 2023

Photo of Charlotte Bascombe, on a blue tech-related background

Did you know that only 26% of the national tech workforce are women? 

After attending her first Women in Tech Festival,Charlotte Bascombe, Configuration Manager, and RSA Women in Tech member, shares what she thinks the industry needs to do to encourage more women into tech. 

The Women in Tech committee at RSA aims to lead, champion and cultivate a culture of support for women across RSA to help them find their confidence, realise their ambitions, connect with and re-balance our technology teams. 

Charlotte attended her first Women in Tech Festival late last year. She’s here today to share her key takeaways from the event, while drawing on similarities from her own personal journey in Tech. 

Here's what Charlotte shared:

Women hold only 26% of all Tech jobs

Towards the end of last year, I was lucky enough to attend my first Women in Tech Festival and was really impressed by the turnout from presenters and fellow attendees. I’d anticipated a greater proportion of men in the audience - as they dominate the sector - so it was a bit surprising at first to see only 3 to 4 men in each room. This contrasts starkly to the actual percentage of tech jobs held by women in the IT industry (26%). There's also further data that shows women  depart the tech workforce after short stints and usually around the 35 years of age mark. I actually thought about leaving the industry a couple of years ago too, but I stayed (and I’m post-35 years old now. Only just though!). 

“I didn’t see anyone like me in the IT workforce” 

The phrase ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ was an interesting one. I started my career in IT 11 years ago and there was only one other woman in that company, who happened to co-run it with her husband. I didn’t see anyone like me who was in the IT operational workforce, but it didn’t stop me from pursuing my career. 

However, I acknowledge that it does help to see fellow colleagues who look and act like you, and it probably would have made my working life a bit easier at the start. Having female role models is something that I encourage, and I think it plays an important role in empowering others coming into the industry. 

The IT industry needs to make itself attractive to young women and ensure job roles come with an inclusive culture, flexible working hours, flexible roles (for example, not all IT roles involve writing code), equity and fairness. 

There were many discussions at the Women in Tech Festival about how we could attract more young women into the tech industry, and several ideas were put forward. These included; engaging girls at Primary School level to tell them what a career in IT looks like, make the language in job adverts more friendly towards women, and offering up questions to candidates prior to interviews. 

Are you brave enough to be vulnerable? 

During an afternoon session there was a talk titled ‘The Importance of Showing Vulnerability'. The presenter shared personal stories that touched on their perception of vulnerability as a weakness, something that's unfortunately quite common in the workplace. However, they realised that by embracing vulnerability, they could transform it into a strength, with the potential to make those who’ve embraced it feel powerful. Her experience of sharing her challenges in a work context openly, meant she was able to ask for support, and discover the power of her own vulnerability as her sharing was so valued and validated. 

An environment of mutual trust and respect is required to enable people to be vulnerable. Any insecurities that an individual has have the potential to be re-framed, and could enable people to improve their connections with their colleagues. Vulnerability breeds vulnerability, so the more colleagues that open up and re-frame ‘weaknesses’, the greater the domino effect will be on other colleagues. 

Making a difference 

The overwhelming sense from the day was that there are so many opportunities for us to do more to encourage women in this industry. Areas the event invited us to focus on include engaging women at a younger age and informing them about what it’s like working in IT,  challenging unconscious biases and the status quo, ensuring women (men and those with other gender identities) know what their full potential is, and encouraging people to be vulnerable – people don’t know everything! 

We also touched on what allies can do to get more involved in promoting female talent into the industry, and ways to encourage greater action and support. 

Jonathan South, Director of UK&I IT Operations and Executive Sponsor of the Women in Tech committee said: 

"I have been privileged to co-sponsor the RSA Women in Tech workstream for the last 18 months, helping support and promote the many initiatives underway and to see the positive progress being made both within RSA and across the wider industry sector.

"There is always more we can do, individually and collectively, and as a male ally I feel a personal responsibility to create a culture where everybody can thrive, succeed, and be inspired to achieve their potential in an inclusive and supportive environment."