Positively recognising digital talent across the board
The digital industry in Britain has been a key driver of innovation, economic growth, employment and global competition. In fact, no other industry has seen the same explosive growth and, against adversity, remained so prosperous throughout recent years. The sector pioneers the way in terms of products, services and opportunities, but unfortunately, as with the vast majority of UK industries, it fails to lead the way at closing the gender divide in the workplace.
It is estimated that within businesses on the UK stock market only six per cent of executive board positions are held by women, a figure which is further put into perspective when you consider 49 per cent of Britain’s labour force is made up of women. What’s more, and in my opinion more concerning, is that there is still a noticeable difference between what men and women are paid for fulfilling the same role. This divide is equally visible in the digital sector, where there is still a significant under-representation of women in senior positions and at board level.
However, being careful not to discriminate, or indeed ignore the fact that within other industries there exists gender divides in the opposite direction, professional success and progression should always be based on qualifications, skill sets and experience, regardless of gender.
There are many potential contributing factors to why the number of women in senior roles in digital is still so low, including family and work-life balance, cultural heritage, the way in which computing education is approached from school level up, a differing view on how men and women measure success (objective vs subjective), etc. Interestingly, many studies over the years have suggested that it is women’s own attitudes toward their achievements and self progression that often holds them back the most. Some go as far as to suggest that women are more likely to undersell themselves, whilst men more likely to oversell, and supporting evidence found women were less likely to put themselves forward for a promotion.
For me, this sadly became clear when recently starting up on the Special Edition programme.
Special Edition is a unique programme organised by TRC Media and Channel 4, which aims to directly address this issue. Building on the success of the highly popular Cross Creative programme, Special Edition has been developed for experienced female talent in the Scottish digital sector. Offering a tailored mix of high-level training, collaborative development, creative and commercial opportunities combined with a field trip in May to San Francisco and Silicon Valley, the programme is a breath of fresh air and perhaps just what the sector, and the women in it, need to give it a boost.
Carol Sinclair is the managing director at TRC Media and leads the team that came up with the Special Edition initiative; “We have immensely talented women working in the digital industry in Scotland. However, they are seriously under-represented at the top table of our digital media businesses. We’d like to change that. Special Edition was created to offer a dynamic mix of high level professional development combined with creative innovation and access to world-class digital businesses in Silicon Valley. Our aim is to set female delegates on a career trajectory that leads to the board room.”
The ‘positive discrimination’ programme was largely developed in response to a lack of women applying for previous Cross Creative programmes. When asked why we hadn’t applied before the unanimous response was that we weren’t confident that we were senior or experienced enough to be considered for the programme. Yet, TRC Media says this has been one of the most competitive programmes it has run and the applications were of an outstanding quality.
So, this suggests to me that one of the biggest problems lies in the way we, ourselves, approach our careers – and this does not exclusively apply to women. Even after just one session with Special Edition you could sense that people left feeling more confident in, and rightly empowered by, their professional achievements.
This programme is just one example of many fantastic initiatives that look at ways to boost both the number of women entering into the digital sector and the number of women progressing up the career ladder and driving the future of the industry. For me, whether male or female, the important thing is to bring in talented individuals who aspire to great things. Through recognising talent and not gender, or any other distinguishing trait or feature, we can build an even stronger digital sector in the UK.
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