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Digital gender divide widens amid skills gaps

Social Media - Technology

Written By: Ruth Holmes – Relocate Magazine

New figures released this week by the UK Commission for Education and Skills (UKCES) shows the proportion of women working in the digital sector has fallen to just 26 per cent.

The latest data from the publicly-funded, industry-led leadership body for skills and employment means the proportion of women working in the digital industries is at a lower level than it was in 2002, when the proportion was 33 per cent.

Karen Price, director of the Tech Partnership, a network of employers working on digital skills, said, “The news that female entrants to the digital sector are falling is very disappointing.”

The UK digital and creative industry is an important sector of the UK economy, accounting for 2.1 million jobs and £137bn annually. However, it is beset with a growing skills problem that could threaten its global competitiveness.

The growing gender divide comes at a time when skilled people are in high demand across the digital and creative sector. According to the study, Sector insights: skills and performance challenges in the digital and creative sector, the sector has a higher proportion of vacancies than across the economy as a whole, including in high-level roles like programmers and web developers.

Four in ten employers report that they had lost business due to not being able to fill posts, despite average earnings in the sector being 25 per cent higher than the UK average.

Commenting, minister for the digital economy, Ed Vaizey, said: “The UK’s digital and creative industries are amongst our biggest success stories, but for them to continue to flourish we must make sure the next generation of talent is being taught, trained and nurtured. Initiatives like TechFuture Girls that encourage young women to consider a career in this dynamic sector will play an important role in addressing this issue.”

A separate study launched in May by Stack Overflow Careers hints that for programmers at least, these initiatives might be paying off, with women entering the development field at a faster rate last year.

UKCES’ study also underlined the importance of a more diverse workforce to respond to economic and demographic trends, for example recruiting older workers who are retiring later, and taking on and developing talent that will enable the sector to manage the fast-evolving legal, technical and commercial opportunities.

“The digital and creative sector will also need the expertise to anticipate how markets and consumers may respond to new business models, and regulatory and legal expertise to help shape and comply with new rules on IP and data protection,” it notes. “It will also be necessary to put in place new and more proactive human resources functions to meet the pressing need to recruit large numbers of new workers, particularly to digital roles, and to encourage greater workforce diversity.”

The study also highlights the potential importance of globally mobile talent and potentially corporate relocation in the tech sector, describing how “deepening globalisation will present opportunities to sell into new markets, but also greater competitive pressures and the potential to move higher value activities overseas.”

“The UK is a world leader in the digital and creative industries,” says Karen Price. “Our software development, visual effects and computer games companies are some of the best there are, and we want to keep them that way. That means that we need to make sure talented people fill the jobs that we’ll need to keep growing.”

Source: Relocate Magazine – http://www.relocatemagazine.com/news/ruth-holmes-06-d2-2015-6954-digital-gender-divide-widens-amid-skills-gaps

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