It’s no secret that women in the tech industry are still vastly underrepresented. While efforts have been made to boost participation and opportunities across the sector, women currently make up just 18% of the tech workforce.

So, with tech still a disproportionately male-dominated sector, how can businesses boost female participation and ensure women see the industry as a valued career to enter into?

Firstly, more needs to be done to engage them in the first place. School is a highly influential time in shaping young people’s views and decisions around their future career path. Research amongst 2,000 18–24-year-olds conducted by Wiley Edge found that 40% felt they were encouraged to consider a career in technology or IT by their school but, disappointingly, this figure drops to just 35% of females, compared with 46% of males.

In addition, 42% of female respondents said that they were never given any information or resources to help them learn about tech career opportunities, compared with 27% of males. To combat this, it’s crucial that girls and young women are actively encouraged to explore different STEM careers from an early age so they can make truly informed decisions regarding their GCSE choices and education and career paths thereafter.

While there’s undoubtedly longer-term strategies that need to be put in place, it’s crucial that we’re doing everything within our power to get women into tech roles now. We need to develop and offer more support and routes into the tech sector to help them gain employment in secure, well-paid roles. This shouldn’t simply be a box ticking exercise for businesses looking to improve their DE&I credentials. Many tech roles offer above-average salaries, even at entry level, and encouraging and enabling more women to consider pursuing a career in technology could make a real difference in the fight for equality.

This is where the hire, train, deploy (HTD) model comes in. As a relatively new emerging talent strategy that originated in the US, awareness of this model amongst UK organisations and graduates is still low. Yet HTD is an impactful and proven method to help university graduates into full-time employment in highly-skilled roles, and can be a great path for women into a fulfilling tech careers.

Graduates can apply to a HTD programme through a talent and reskill training vendor that will work closely with a number of organisations in their chosen field. They’ll typically be hired upfront by the vendor and undergo training on a technology that’s specific to a particular organisation or prevalent within the market as a whole.

Considering that the forecast average debt among the cohort of borrowers who started their university course in 2021/22 will be £45,800 when they complete their course, and with interest rates pushing costs up further, we believe that graduates have already paid more than enough for their tuition. Graduates should look for a vendor that provides the training at no cost to them, and with no exit fees if they decide to leave at any stage of the programme. Instead, they should be employed and paid by the vendor throughout the training and during their deployment with an organisation, until an opportunity arises for them to join the organisation permanently.

The HTD model is also attractive for organisations looking to acquire new talent. Once the individuals have been deployed into the organisation, they’re given a contract with a bill rate attached, so the process doesn’t feel vastly different to staffing or require swathes of extra paperwork and processes. It also takes away the need for the organisation to handle the upfront hiring and ongoing training and screening. Instead, they benefit from a new, well-rounded member of the team, with all the foundational learnings from university as well as the in-depth industry, organisation or technology-specific training required to enable them to hit the ground running. Essentially, it provides the skills and talent without the upfront cost or risk, while also helping to counteract the seasonality of any in-house graduate training programmes and fulfil the year-round demand for talent.

HTD is also often effective in helping organisations build a more diverse workforce by taking a proactive rather than reactive approach to finding talent. Our research found that diverse hiring efforts are currently being hindered by a focus on small talent tool. While 55% of businesses said they struggle to recruit diverse entry-level employees, 60% said they’re more likely to hire – or that they exclusively hire – graduates from top universities.

While it’s positive to see a growing number of businesses putting measures and targets in place to diversify their senior leadership teams, chronic underrepresentation in the past has led to a shortage of senior candidates from diverse backgrounds. To help resolve this, businesses need to ensure they’re building diverse tech teams from the ground up. Only by actively working to build an inclusive junior talent pipeline will the industry naturally see more diverse representation at board level in years to come.

As many organisations will have experienced first-hand, recovering from mis-hires can be challenging. HTD removes the burden of competing for talent, ensures quality, and can reduce the time and effort normally required to find the right candidate and deliver the necessary training.

Crucially, the model gives all kinds of underrepresented groups, not just women, an accessible and effective pathway into a highly skilled, well-paid tech career. While HTD is just one small part of what is undoubtedly a broader issue and conversation around diversity in technology, the model has facilitated many successful partnerships and is one that more organisations and graduates should be aware of in the search for diverse talent and fulfilling employment.

Becs Roycroft
Senior director at Wiley Edge | Website | + posts

Becs Roycroft is a workforce and talent solutions expert and diversity and inclusion advocate, with over 20 years experience helping businesses bridge the skills gap. She has led global teams at recruitment giants, mostly within IT and corporate functions. She is now turning her passion into progress at Wiley Edge, where she leads the emerging talent and reskill operations through programmes that help businesses access broader talent pools. She has been instrumental in creating successful and high performing teams across sales, client engagement and business operations. Becs’ was awarded the Women in Technology DE&I Initiative for 2022 in recognition of her continued dedication and hard work in this area.