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News & Updates

25/07/16
Anyone inside – or indeed outside – local government will have noticed that devolution is the hot topic of the moment. Increased localism will give councils more autonomy over strategic issues such as transport infrastructure, health and economic growth. In this new landscape strong science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills will be needed more than ever. It was therefore refreshing to participate in Socitm’s Women in IT network, which realises that women are under-represented in STEM subjects and this has a knock-on effect with information and digital technology. The Socitm Women in IT network reminded us of all the curious, risk-taking and tenacious women already in local government, and that the public sector has a proud record of workforce diversity. However, there’s no escaping the fact that women continue to be under-represented in the IT sector. Socitm’s own member research shows that women in public and private IT sectors account for one-third of the workforce at all levels. This is not a sustainable future model. Greater diversity means organisations have a larger pool of talent to draw from in order to rapidly respond to changing demands. So we cannot achieve more customer-focused services if the digital sector excludes women. Change won’t happen without a structured strategic effort to motivate and mobilise girls and young women to take STEM subjects. There are already some great programmes across access (Tech Mums), relevant engagement (Capgemini’s mykindacrowd, Apps for Good), networking (WeAreTheCity), people development (Canon’s Campaign for Learning) and digital skills and leadership (Learning Pool, Socitm). But we need more. We need to create the space and place for women to develop coding and data skills that are at the heart of the next wave of the digital revolution that is both innovative and ethical. Now more than ever we need a combination of technical and soft (e.g commissioning, negotiation, collaborative leadership) change management skills. Chi Onwurah, the shadow cabinet minister for Culture and the Digital Economy, has said it is time to ‘reclaim the byte’ and challenge the under- representation and stereotypes of women in technology. Under the efforts of Soctim’s president Nadira Hussein and its Women in IT programme, we are starting to do just that. Under the new public sector economy, the importance of this task cannot be underestimated. Ruby Dixon is a new member of Soctim’s Women in IT network and a candidate of the Academy of Digital Business Leaders. Contact her at: rdixon@alpine.eu.com

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