A significant number of girls with an interest in tech-based school subjects don’t go on to take part in technology programmes at university, according to McKinsey.
The consulting firm’s research found that 31% of girls studying information science, computer science, and technology at school level don’t choose these subjects at university, and the same is true of 18% of girls taking science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects at school level.
In its article Women in tech: The best bet to solve Europe’s talent shortage’, McKinsey highlighted that women only represent 22% of those working in tech roles across Europe, and that increasing this number could help to push forward technology innovation.
McKinsey said: “Addressing this shortfall is about much more than doing the right thing; it’s an economic necessity.”
Despite ongoing effort from industry, government and education providers, there is still a significant lack of women working in technology roles for various reasons.
While it has been suggested in the past that tackling the gender gap could help to close the technology skills gap, companies find it hard to encourage more women into the sector and to find the necessary talent to feel tech roles.
McKinsey estimates a talent gap of between 1.4 million to 3.9 million people by 2027 in Europe, which could be solved by raising the number of women in the tech sector to represent 45% of the sector, adding around 3.9 million women to the sector in the next three years.
But to increase the number of women in the tech and STEM sectors, issues would have to be addressed with the talent pipeline.
For example, McKinsey found that the number of girls taking STEM subjects drops by 18% between school and university, and another 15% between university and the workplace – the two big holes in the talent pipeline.
While the number of women who have chosen to take computer science at university level has increased in the UK, the number graduating from STEM courses at higher education level is actually dropping in Europe.
Between 2016 and 2020, there was a steady drop in the number of female STEM university graduates by between 1-2% each year.
Why are girls dropping out? It’s not down to academic achievement – when it comes to STEM, girls consistently outperform boys in countries such as Bulgaria, Finland, Latvia and Sweden in maths and science.
According to McKinsey, girls are not as encouraged by teachers, peers or parents when it comes to taking part in STEM subjects, and are exposed to both conscious and unconscious bias when it comes to taking part in STEM, leading to a drop off in interest and confidence.
Only 19% of those taking tech-related bachelor’s degrees in Europe are women, which means there is a lack of women studying the same subjects and a lack of role models to point them in the right direction.
If studying STEM degrees, women are just as likely, or slightly more likely, than men to graduate from these programmes, but only 23% of women who take part in STEM at university level end up in tech roles, as opposed to 44% of men.
Once women make it into the tech industry, there’s a significant difference between the percentage of women in tech-based companies versus tech-based roles.
McKinsey stated the number of women working in tech companies is almost equal to the number of men, whereas the number of women in tech roles regardless of the type of company or industry is significantly less – women make up around 37% of people working in tech-based companies in Europe, whereas they only account for 25% of people working in tech roles within these companies.
When it comes to the women who make up 37% of workers in tech companies, they are more likely to be found in social media or e-commerce – women make up 50% of people working in social media, 46% of people working in e-commerce, 44% in entertainment, 39% in high tech and software, and 24% in semiconductors.
When it comes to tech-based roles, McKinsey’s research suggested the percentage of women across all sectors is the lowest in some of the tech disciplines that are growing at the quickest rate – across all sectors, only 8% of those working in cloud and DevOps are women versus 46% in UX/UI, and only 10% of women in tech-based companies are in cloud or solutions architect roles, and only 13% are Python developers.
The number of women in technology roles in the UK has remained largely stagnant over the past 5+ years, and McKinsey’s estimations are bleak, predicting the percentage of women in tech roles is likely to be around 21% in Europe in 2027.
McKinsey suggests four ways Europe can begin to address these issues: tackling workplace bias, working on retention, reskilling, and encouraging girls to stay in STEM classes. These, it says, could increase the number of women in tech by up to 3.9 million in the next five years.