WISE report: Women more likely to retrain for a job in tech

Respondents said their non-STEM qualifications had equipped them with transferable skills for the sector, while women were more likely to take part-time tech courses

Those interested in a tech career do not necessarily need a sector-specific degree, according to the new ‘Exploring Pathways into Tech Careers’ research report by WISE.

The research by the gender equality in STEM organisation aims to identify sector skills gaps and discover more about the routes employees have taken into tech.

Their key findings were that a computing degree is not a “compulsory qualification” for roles in tech, with women more likely than men to re-train to enter the sector (15% of women compared with 7% of men.)

Just 28% of tech sector survey respondents held a computing degree, while 29% had degrees unrelated to STEM subjects. However, 43% held other STEM-related degrees, excluding computing.

With around half of the research interviewees claiming to have arrived into their tech role via a non-traditional route either by re-training or using existing skills, the research confirms that employers are starting to value transferable skills, which is positive news for future workforce diversity.

Interviewees involved in the study reported that their original “often non-STEM qualifications” had equipped them with transferable skills including communication, leadership, logic and data analysis, creative problem solving, and an “enthusiasm for learning.”

Another interesting finding was that women were 50% more likely to take part-time courses than men suggesting that hiring more candidates from non-traditional STEM routes, such as those taking courses to upskill themselves, could encourage more gender diversity in the tech workforce.

The report also found that companies are “increasingly turning to corporate universities and online training academies to train and upskill staff.”

However, the report also uncovered a possible gender divide emerging in terms of roles in tech, where men tend to upskill into roles such as systems engineering or systems architecture while women are choosing to upskill into product and project management and business and management roles.

WISE has provided the following recommendations for tech firms looking to diversify their talent pool:

  • Remove the barriers to entry for new workforce entrants from non-computing backgrounds looking to re-train.
  • Increase emphasis on skills instead of qualifications in job adverts.
  • Advertise career opportunities in unusual places to attract candidates who want to re-train and those who have been on career breaks.
  • Offer mentoring and coaching opportunities to develop and retain staff.
  • Collaborate with educators to improve transferrable skills for new workforce entrants.
  • Increase the visibility of role models and careers advice.

In an exclusive comment made to DiversityQ, Kay Hussain, Chief Executive of WISE, said: “Our Exploring Pathways into Technology Careers research has shown that an innovative approach to recruitment will attract more diverse people into tech roles. When considering a career switch people may not see how their skillset applies to a tech role, so it’s great to see that transferable skills are highly valued by employers.

“We need to help get this message out. It’s also exciting to see the growth of in-house ‘universities’. This approach to training can really help people from non-technical backgrounds make that leap into a new role. Adaptations to the way tech staff are recruited will enable many more people to play their part in developing the technologies of the future.”

To read the report in full, click here.

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