Comment: Inspire diversity in tech with female role models

Toni Scullion of St Kentigerns Academy at 2018 SWiT Awards with MSP Richard Lochhead. Picture: David Ho
Toni Scullion of St Kentigerns Academy at 2018 SWiT Awards with MSP Richard Lochhead. Picture: David Ho
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By championing the achievements of women and girls, Scotland can pave the way to a more diverse and inclusive future for the tech sector, believes SWiT.

Scotland Women in Technology (SWiT) believes that creating women in tech role models is essential to inspire future generations to take up careers in technology. The skills shortage across STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) related fields needs to be addressed and one way to help is to celebrate the incredible female talent in the technology sector today.

SWiT has opened nominations for the third Annual Scotland Women in Technology Awards Dinner which will be held at the Radisson Blu, Glasgow on the 24 October. The awards are designed to showcase people working to improve diversity and encourage the uptake of tech-related subjects across the whole career pipeline.

Elaine McKechnie, vice-chair of SWiT, said: “We want to shine a light on the teachers who are inspiring young people as well as recognising those already working within the technology industry, championing diversity and leading by example.”

In 2018, Microsoft published results from its findings based on a Europe-wide study of girls and young women. The findings showed a clear link between role models and an increased passion for science, technology, engineering and maths. It also revealed that the number of girls interested in STEM, on average, almost doubles when they have a role model to inspire them.

According to Skills Development Scotland there are more than 12,000 technology-related job opportunities every year. We want to see more women and girls pursuing these roles to transform the sector, but to make that happen we need to bust some myths about what a technology career involves.

Too many people still think that a technology job is all about coding or that your work will be solely desk based. Technology offers a hugely diverse career and can take you into multiple sectors from engineering to healthcare. We believe having role models across Scotland who are working across these diverse roles can help combat these outdated myths, help more people realise their future could lie in tech and open the doors to a new generation of innovators.

By hosting the annual awards, SWiT hopes to find role models who can inspire others about education and career prospects in technology.

Scotland can and should be a global leader on gender equality in technology, not simply in terms of women having access to technology jobs but also to make sure that the innovations of tomorrow are fit for purpose and created with a diverse set of minds. Many organisations are focused on making this a reality, including sector experts Equate Scotland who work with employers to tackle bias and create inclusive workplaces. Equate Scotland also provide women working in engineering and technology with support and expertise, such as public speaking, to help them inspire others to pursue an exciting role in technology.

Winner of the 2018 SWiT award for Secondary Teacher of the Year, Toni Scullion of St Kentigern’s Academy, feels that: “Visible role models are vital to encourage and motivate girls into tech, as it allows them to see people who have found success in their chosen career, motivating and reassuring them that there is a viable career in their sector that they can aspire to and work towards. Even further, having opportunities to connect with Scottish roles models is even more powerful.

“Events such as work experience opportunities, open days and career fairs allow pupils to get face to face with amazing role models, to allow them to talk to them, question them, be inspired by them. Pupils have told me that this makes everything seem more achievable and realistic than seeing, for example, an American success story.”

Toni is also the founder of DressCode, a charity with the aim of raising awareness of the opportunities available to girls in the technology sector and closing the gender gap.

Nominees and finalists of the SWiT Awards are creating a legacy for the Scottish Technology Community and will be role models for years to come. This 2019 nominations window closes on 23rd August so there is still time to nominate your tech heroes.

- This piece was submitted by Elaine McKechnie, vice-chair of SWiT, with contributions from Talat Yaqoob of Equate Scotland and Toni Scullion of St Kentigerns Academy.