While growing up in Kenya 32 years ago, my only role models were a mother, a nurse and a teacher. Women working in technology, marketing or similar simply did not exist in my immediate environment.
Still, I was fortunate enough to have been given the opportunity to graduate in computer science and pursue a career in the IT industry.
Unfortunately, decades on, I am still a rare case. Rare.
Even in the UK, women make up only 16% of the IT workforce and, according to Wise Campaign, "the proportion of tech roles filled by women has flatlined since 2009".
We simply need to do more, as women and as people representing the IT industry, to inspire young girls and women of all ages into a career in IT. I know first hand that working in tech is exciting and rewarding. We need to make it accessible.
Addressing the gender imbalance is just one important piece of a bigger puzzle. We need to think holistically about how we foster diversity to drive innovation and open up new talent pools.
Making tech careers desirable
One of ServiceNow's core organisational values is embracing diversity and inclusion.
This commitment manifests itself in a number of initiatives, from events that promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) careers to students, to programmes that equip girls with the digital skills they will need in tomorrow's job market.
During our STEM Enterprise Days, for example, students are invited to attend a hackathon at ServiceNow's offices, where we work with them to create an application that addresses their needs. In addition to learning new skills (how to envision a new app, develop it and consider ways to market it) students also gain real-life experience by working in the IT industry for a day.
The feedback to date has been hugely positive. An impressive 98% of students who attended one of our hackathons say they now have more desire to pursue a career in technology.
Our collaboration with Learning to Work, a charity-led campaign for gender balance in science, technology and engineering, has seen similar positive results. In this instance, ServiceNow female developers are visiting girls' schools to talk about their career journeys and inspire pupils to consider studying and careers in technology.
Uncovering new and diverse talent pools
A shortage of talent and skills in the tech industry is an undisputed challenge for most tech companies. At ServiceNow, we are addressing this by tapping into different groups of talent and equipping them with digital skills for the future.
One of the aims of the ServiceNow Next Gen Programme is reskilling diverse groups of people, such as mothers returning to work after a career break.
We plan to expand our engagement with women who may want to consider a career in tech by working with Code First Girls, a charity that teaches women coding skills.
ServiceNow employees as role models
Having managed some of the ServiceNow STEM-focused programmes for two years now, I can see what a positive impact they have had on our own employees.
By delivering presentations to students, running workshops and attending careers events, our colleagues have become role models to the new generation. Their sense of satisfaction, purpose and belonging to our own company has grown, and they've also developed new skills themselves through public speaking and presenting.
An invitation to drive change together
Our future aspiration is to strengthen our programmes by bringing on board our ecosystem of customers and partners to develop new events and initiatives.
The launch of a new STEM-focused event for UK school children this year is just one example, where speakers from our partner and customer organisations will talk about their career journeys in STEM.
By working together, we in the technology space can make a big impact in making careers in IT accessible and attractive to diverse audiences.
In the current crisis we are in, technology is even more important and pivotal to supporting businesses. I would like to take this opportunity to invite our ecosystem to join forces with us to drive real, and lasting, change in the industry.
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