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Tech seriously needs role models for young women

New research commissioned by Samsung, reveals that while two thirds (67%) of 18-25-year-old can imagine a future career in tech, an overwhelming amount (91%) say there are barriers to even considering a role in the industry.

On International Women’s Day (8th March), Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. revealed that while two thirds (67%) of 18-25-year-old women are considering a career in tech, an overwhelming amount (91%) say there are barriers to even considering a role in the industry. Whether it’s not understanding enough about the sector (44%), not having the right tech qualifications (30%), or fear of it being too challenging (23%), women are seeing non-tech routes such as careers in HR, marketing and finance as their way ‘in’ to working in the industry (38%).

The research polled over 2,000 18–25-year-old women in the UK to understand young women’s attitudes towards tech careers, revealing what factors influence career paths, and exploring the influence that role models have.

Ambitious Gen-Z let down by foundational support
There is a wave of ambitious young talent entering the world of work who are passionate about making social change that organisations must accommodate.

Young women are increasingly seeking a job that gives them purpose (46%), enables them to make a positive change in the world (41%), do rewarding work (41%), and that gives them the opportunity to make technology more inclusive to women (40%).

Findings revealed that the vast majority were in favour of a career in tech (67%), with respondents describing the sector as ‘exciting’ (52%), ‘innovative’ (55%) and ‘cool’ (41%), compared to just 5% who said it was ‘boring’. Gen-Z are also fascinated about the prospect of artificial intelligence and machine learning, with 36% finding advancements in tech in this area exciting and forward looking.

However, progress to attract more women into the tech sector is being hampered by a lack of support at a young age. One third of women (34%) say they didn’t learn enough about tech at school, and 22% even reported that they were steered away from subjects relevant to the tech industry at school or college by their teachers.

“Technological innovation is front and centre and instead of being put off, or tuning out of the conversation, Gen-Z are actively engaged in these developments. With growing excitement, the next question is how can employers and educators break down the barriers to entry and facilitate action to close the gap between intention and action? We must be the ones to rally together, to enable the next generation to take practical steps to pursue meaningful careers,” says Annika Bizon, Marketing and Omnichannel Director at Samsung UK.

Role models for young women
Interestingly, when looking at who plays the biggest influence on young women’s lives, the research found that while family (57%) and friends (34%) play the largest role, they were also more likely to view social media influencers as role models (19%), rather than their teachers (18%). Culture was also found to be a source of inspiration for Gen-Z women, as Music (33%), TV and Film (29%) and Books (28%) were identified as somewhere they draw inspiration from.

For a third (33%) of respondents, having more women in the industry would make it a more attractive career choice. A similar number (28%) said that more role models overall would add to the appeal of tech.

“In 2017, a report revealed that 78% of UK students couldn’t name a famous woman working in technology. Today, this figure is worse, with 92% of 18–25-year-old women saying that they cannot name a famous woman in the industry versus 46% that can name a prominent man in tech,” said Tanya Weller, Marketing Director at Samsung UK and Ireland.

“There is clearly appetite from young women to pursue a career in tech, but we all need to step up to help these women realise their ambitions – it’s the combined effort of schools, universities, and workplaces to actively break down barriers, and support and inspire the next generation of talent into a thriving career in tech. We need robust role models that the young women of tomorrow can look up to as a source of inspiration, to stop and think ‘I can do that too’. Or perhaps even, ‘I can do better’” adds Weller.

Female representation in the tech industry
Representation in the industry matters when it comes to recognising leading women in the field.

Respondents of the study incorrectly thought This Morning TV presenter Alison Hammond was a woman in tech, with 12% incorrectly identifying her. This was followed by current First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon (9%), Charli Emma Aitchison – the singer songwriter more commonly known as Charlie XCX (8%), and British tennis player Emma Raducanu (6%) as prominent women in the tech sector. Just 14% correctly identified Ada Lovelace as a woman in tech. This is despite the fact Ada Lovelace is largely known as the first computer programmer and even has an awareness day dedicated to her, “Ada Lovelace Day” which is held every October.

“We all have a place in tech. Working in tech isn’t just about being able to code – it’s about so much more. Tech is home to diverse people with eclectic experiences in design, computer science, linguistics, humanities, history and much more. Paths are being formed, but what’s clear is that we need more visible female role models in the industry that inspire the next generation to take those life-defining first steps”, says Sharmadean Reid, Founder of The Stack World.

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