I was struck by a quote I read recently from Sky's Group Chief Information Security Officer, Elaine Bucknor.
Launching the latest round of the company's Women in Tech Scholars Scheme, she claimed that boys in the UK are still more than twice as likely to be encouraged to work in tech than girls. And she said that it's little wonder half of girls Sky spoke with had ruled out working in the industry by the time they reached 18 years old.
Initially unveiled last year, Sky's scheme offers £25,000 in funding to five women in order to fund their tech idea along with support and mentorship.
As Elaine Bucknor said, it's widely acknowledged that attracting women into technology is a challenge, and industry has a responsibility to bring about change.
Indeed, today, it remains the case that just 18 percent of people who work in technology in the UK are female. In Northern Ireland, the figure is broadly the same as it is for the UK as a whole. In our business, I have to confess, the percentage of our workforce that is female isn't a whole lot higher - though it isn't for want of trying. But the tech sector needs to do more to increase gender diversity, in it's own self-interests as well as because it's the right thing to do, and I'm committed that our company will play it's role. Certainly, there has been progress, if too slow.
I am encouraged to see that registrations by girls for Novosco Camp - our summer IT programme for 16-17 year-olds, which takes place later this month - were well above the 18 percent figure for female representation in the tech sector. About one-third of all those who applied for Novosco Camp this year were female. We want it to be higher, but when set against the proportion of the tech sector that is female, it has to be viewed as progress.
I am also aware of a number of Novosco Camp female graduates who have gone on to enter - and do well - in IT degree programmes at local universities. We have also been able to recruit an increasing number of outstanding women into our business.
One thing that needs to happen for the industry is for there to be a greater number of female role models. Sky's scholarship programme is a positive thing in this regard, aiming to nurture new talent and highlight inspiring role models to encourage others to follow. But the industry as a whole also needs to look closely at everything from perceptions of the tech sector, to working practices.
I would like to think that we have a strong, flexible, and welcoming culture as a company, but as I reflect on the stark statistics in our industry that continue to prevail regarding female representation in tech, I remain committed to looking at everything we do to ensure that there are no barriers at our company to attracting more female talent.
And hopefully we can inspire some of the girls attending Novosco Camp later this month to go on to have long and successful careers in the IT and wider tech sectors.