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Elaine Bucknor: Our mission to nurture women in the tech sector

Firms like Sky are trying to encourage more women to take up careers in technology.
Firms like Sky are trying to encourage more women to take up careers in technology.
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THROUGHOUT my 20s, people told me that my career path was an unusual choice for a girl.

Firm in my belief that technology was going to change people’s lives, I wanted to be
at the heart of that regardless of what people thought. I wasn’t wrong. It has become second nature to many of us and, in the last 10 years, it has transformed the way we live, work, communicate and spend our free time.

The UK technology industry is a jewel in our economic crown. According to the latest report from Tech Nation, digital investment in the UK is 50 per cent higher than in any other European country. In addition, the rate of job creation in digital services in the UK is twice as fast as some of our more traditional industries.

However, as a female leader in technology, I am still seen as ‘unusual’ – only 17 per cent of people working in technology are women.

Why does this matter?

It’s simple. With a less diverse workforce, we risk a lack of variety in skill and thought that will have a permanent effect on the industry. We need the input of people from a range of backgrounds who can bring fresh perspectives and inspire change.

To put it in context, Sky serves over 12 million homes across the UK and Ireland. With different needs and demands, we need to mirror this diversity.

It would be foolish to think that one group of people, all 
from roughly the same background, could understand the breadth of our customer needs and develop products to meet those needs. Our workforce – and those of other companies (technology and otherwise) – need to mirror this diversity and women are very much part of that.

To address this inherent imbalance we need to look at attracting talent across all levels of experience. From apprenticeships and graduate schemes, to mid-level management and return-to- work schemes, right through to senior leadership roles, there’s an opportunity for us to change the status quo.

As a well-known UK brand, we feel a responsibility to take a lead in effecting change.

At Sky, our country-wide Women in Tech programme has already been running for some time, including our winning Get into Tech initiative. It’s a free training course aimed at providing women with software developer skills that they can use to help secure a job. In the first year we had an amazing response, there have been 
more than 600 applicants, many of whom have applied to our Leeds hub.

We also offer a Sky Software Engineering Academy, which provides on-the-job training for graduates and apprentices – last year 47 per cent of the entrants were female. All great steps in the right direction.

Our campaign for more diversity in the industry extends to geography as well. I’m sure there’s a wealth of undiscovered female talent that exists in the regions, but too much recruitment focus is in and around London.

This doesn’t seem right when last year 70 per cent of the industry growth took place outside the capital.

I’ve see this first-hand when I visit our regional technology innovation centres. In Leeds, for example, where we have a technology hub, there is a thriving tech scene and the university is producing young and exciting female talent. It is our responsibility to ensure we’re creating the right opportunities for these young women.

More girls are being inspired to take STEM subjects at school. Younger generations 
are immersed in a technology-driven existence that is unprecedented and will – I hope – lead to more females seeing it as a natural career path.

More start-ups are being founded by women and recruitment efforts are 
actively focused on 
identifying and nurturing 
female talent.

All of which means that one day eyebrows will no longer be raised when I say I work in technology. The response will be ‘Lucky you, it’s an exciting place to be’.

Elaine Bucknor is group director of security, strategy and planning at Sky.