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Why are there still so few women in tech in 2021?

Although we recognise the influential work of women like Hedy Lamarr, Annie Easley, Susan Kare and many others and the ways it has helped to improve our lives through technology, we acknowledge that there is still a significant gap to fill with more women playing key roles in the technology and IT industries.

At Polestar we want to promote the fascinating opportunities that are available to women and young girls in the technology sector, and what better way of doing so than launching this mini-series on #WomenInTech.

ALD (Ada Lovelace Day, the second Tuesday of October each year) is an international celebration of the achievements of women in technology, engineering, science and maths (STEM). Its goal is to create new role models to encourage more girls into STEM careers, and support women already working in these fields.

Today, we want to talk about how we can get more women working in the tech industry, especially given the current skills shortage in IT. The current stats aren’t particularly optimistic, suggesting that only 1 in 6 tech specialists in the UK are women and only 1 in 10 are IT leaders. So why don’t women work in tech and how can we change this?

Where does the challenge start for girls?

The challenges start in education: women tend not to choose STEM subjects or aren’t encouraged to. In many ways, these choices could be seen as the natural consequence of stereotypes and cultural representations of the IT working environment, which is depicted as a male-dominated space where women only occupy marginal roles.

Not only is there a lack of positive cultural representations of women in tech, but there’s also a real shortage of contemporary, real-life female role models for women to aspire to. Perhaps the most famous female in techAda Lovelace – was born over 200 years ago. And the rest? We usually do not hear about them.

What needs to change in the industry?

Firstly, we need to increase awareness about what working in technology involves and the myriad of opportunities it affords. Jobs in IT can be in design, implementation, sales, project management, data analysis, user experience, programming, security and many others.

Secondly, we need to increase access to technology careers by offering alternative entry routes or by removing barriers for entry. At Polestar we’re really keen on growing our own talent through apprenticeships, we rarely require candidates to have an IT degree and are happy to consider candidates who are self-taught. We’re also committed to creating environments that attract women and allow them to progress such as offering flexible working.

Thirdly, we need to increase visible role models and break down stereotypes – women who work in tech DO NEED to shout a bit louder. That’s the sole reason we’re producing this series of short videos about our own experience as Women in Tech.

Finally, we need to help women reach their full potential in the industry – half the senior management positions at Polestar are held by women; and as we grow, we’d love to continue to attract and nurture female talent.

We recognize that our business won’t flourish if half the population is under-represented and that encouraging diversity can only be good for business.

Watch the video where our CFO and HR Manager, Dr. Jacinda Read, speaks about the challenges faced by women in the technology sector.

Learn more about some of our favourite women in tech of all times!

Ada Lovelace.

1815 – 1852. An English writer and mathematician, known for her work on Charles Babbage's mechanical computer, the Analytical Engine. She was the first to acknowledge the machine's applications beyond pure calculation, and to publish the first algorithm to be used by such machine. She is often regarded as the first programmer.

Hedy Lamarr.

1914 – 2000. An Austrian inventor, film producer and actress. Hedy co-invented the first version of the frequency-hopping spread spectrum communication, originally intended for torpedo navigation, and used today at the core of many communications systems, including the GSM, GPS, WiFi and Bluetooth systems.

Annie Easley.

1933 – 2011. An US computer scientist, rocket scientist and mathematician. She worked for the Lewis Research Center of NASA. A leading member of the team that developed software for the Centaur rocket stage. A crater on the moon was named after Easley by the IAU. She is also well known for encouraging women to enter STEM fields.

Susan Kare.

1954 - Today. An US artist and graphic designer. Building on the UI inspired by Adele Goldberg's team, Susan is developed some of Apple's signature graphics with the idea that these should be easily readable symbols, correlating to real-world objects. This resulted in the Apple clock, the pointer finger, the trash can, and more.

Other more-recent women we also admire:

Jasmine Anteunis | Chief Product Officer at SAP | Artist, self-taught UX Designer and coder.

Susan Wojcicki | CEO of YouTube | MBA & BA in History/Literature.

Kate Crawford | Senior Principal Researcher at USC & Research Professor | Ex-Microsoft Reseacher | Journalist and co-founder of the AI Now Institute (NYU).

Dr. Fei-Fei Li | Co-director of Stanford’s Human-Centered AI Institute | BA in Physics and PhD in Computer Science.

Aishwarya Srinivasan | AI & ML Innovation Leader at IBM | LinkedIn Top Voice 2020 | Data and Computer Scientist.

Kerensa Jennings | BT Group Senior Adviser, Digital Impact | Masters in Literature & Theatre.

Some interesting links:

Women in tech statistics and hard truths.

On the impostor syndrome and why you deserve to be where you are.


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