Jacqueline de Rojas is President of techUK alongside her role as Area Vice President for Citrix in Northern Europe, working to help people and businesses to work anywhere, anytime and on any device. She is also a Non-Executive Director of the Home Retail Group PLC. Jacqueline studied European Business at Middlesex University.
“…The economic argument for flexible working is clear – the UK as a whole needs to contribute to a culture where anywhere, anytime working is the accepted norm…”
Tackling the gender divide in technology – a business agenda
According to the Office for National Statistics, despite representing 46% of the labour market, women still only make up 12.8% of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) workforce. Despite frequent discussion by industry bodies around women’s underrepresentation, it is not yet converting into a greater uptake by women of careers in these sectors. In fact, the ratio of women in our workforce is no greater than it was 20 years ago.
Tackling this gender divide in technology is too often seen as a feminist agenda rather than a business agenda. But without tackling the culture that reinforces the skills gap for 50% of the population, the UK can never be a leading source of technology innovation. Only by investing in our future female workforce are businesses guaranteed the necessary manpower, skills and diversity of ideas for future success.
Encouraging a cultural shift in attitudes towards mobile and flexible working
One of the key battles in correcting this imbalance is encouraging a cultural shift in attitude towards mobile and flexible working. If a business can offer flexible working options, particularly around maternity leave for example, then it will become a worthy choice for women looking to balance home and work life. These options are ultimately a key driver for many that are keen to succeed in the workplace without the constraints of a nine-to-five mentality.
Technology has the potential to break down the barriers that could deter women and other diverse groups from working in full and part time tech roles. With the rise of cloud and the consumerisation of IT, innumerable companies could benefit from a more diverse pool of talent. Equally, by embracing new technology, women have the opportunity to enter a much broader range of careers than they might previously have imagined.
Enabling a mobile workforce
I would encourage women to actively seek companies that will support and encourage flexible working patterns that fit with their life. For example, I probably would not have chosen Citrix unless it fitted within my core values. So flexible working is really important to me because it enables a mobile workforce and that’s exactly what Citrix delivers.
As an industry, we have a responsibility to promote how the use of technology can break down traditional work barriers, enabling a more flexible, productive workforce. We must demonstrate how our own solutions can help other industries succeed as well. Welcoming new working practices through the use of technology can and should be a key driver in attracting a diverse range of professionals into the IT workforce, including women.
Businesses which offer flexible working options not only attract more women who value the balance home and work life, but could also massively reduce the drop off of talent frequently seen following maternity leave. However, flexible working opportunities will only truly benefit a company if there is a cultural shift.
Evaluating workers by what they actually deliver and making anywhere, anytime working the accepted norm
Businesses might be better served by evaluating them on the work they actually deliver rather than judging workers on how long they spend at their desks. By realising that employees do not have to be in the office from nine to five, employers will reap the benefits of an even more productive, contented workforce and reach a new, untapped pool of talent in the process.
In this competitive environment, businesses in the UK should take the opportunity to look very closely at the provisions they make for flexible working. Those that choose not to enable workplace mobility may find themselves losing out in the war for talent and could suffer from lower employee productivity. The economic argument for flexible working is clear – the UK as a whole needs to contribute to a culture where anywhere, anytime working is the accepted norm.
Britain powering its economy through the rise of a massive technology revolution
If we are to become a digital nation of significance, businesses, government and organisations must work together to tackle diversity, gender balance and digital inclusion. Without this, Britain risks missing the opportunity to power its economy through the rise of a massive technology revolution and a massive global market. Let’s bring together all corners of the country, include the digitally excluded and unlocking the potential that a diverse workforce can deliver.
Work is not a place, it is where you are.