Little Miss Geek – Situation Vacant

On Wednesday, I went to the launch of a book called Little Miss Geek, written by advertising industry veteran, and founder and CEO of Lady Geek, Belinda Parmar. Her organisation wants to see more women in the tech industry and the Little Miss Geek campaign recognises that the challenges to achieving this start pretty early.

Its hard to deny that tech has something of an image problem. Despite us all owning increasingly stylish and powerful personal computing devices, the jobs associated with the creation and development of  hardware and software just arent pushing girls buttons. Regular conference-goers wont be surprised to know that just one in five of the technology workforce is female – a figure that, rather than improving, is actually falling by 0.5 per cent each year. An Institute of Physics report released on the same day as the book found that 49 per cent of all mixed states schools in England do not send even one girl on to do physics at A-level.

After the runaway success of the Grindr gay dating app, other social discovery tools have mimicked its goal-focused package – how fit are you, are you nearby, want to meet? Not exactly what Id call a recipe for long-term success. Belinda calls the strategy of marketing to women “pink it and shrink it”. Stick a bit of sparkle on it and she will come…

So why should we care? I was at a recent MoMoLondon event where the panel mentioned that dating apps tend to have more men than women – a situation where it is perhaps more clear why a gender inbalance is bad for business. I asked whether they thought their all-male panel was indicative of a wider trend across mobile and tech, which meant men were conceiving, designing, creating and deploying apps and tech for men and women, with little female input along the way. After all, only three per cent of creative directors are women. 

Its just a case of simple maths. Lloyds TSB has announced that it expects women of all age groups to be controlling the family purse strings by 2020. Women have more buying power than India and China combined, and are responsible for the purchase of four out of ever 10 gadgets.

So young girls growing up in 2012 are digital natives –  members of the most tech-savvy generation ever- why cant they see this as a potential career path? The panel made a range of suggestions. ICT is a pretty dull acronym and many school courses still go little beyond this is how you type a letter. Parents often have a boys do this, girls do that mentality. Tech is sold as, well, technical, without often outlining the creative, innovative and challenging aspects. The male CEO of an IT company said at the launch that he would love to have at least one woman on his workforce – could companies market themselves as being more appealing to women?

Digital, and particularly mobile, is changing every industry and peoples lives all over the world. It really is a revolution that we need people, both men and women, to skill up and be a part of.