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Women in Digital and Creative – A blog for International Women’s Day

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Vinnie Moriarty Barron

In the UK of 2016, women remain underrepresented in the Digital and Creative sectors accounting for just 27% of the total workforce – a figure lower than the 33% recorded in 2002 and significantly below the national average for all sectors at 47%.

Women are conspicuously absent in areas like gaming, visual effects and animation – something that certainly seems anecdotally true going in and out of the lift at Elevator Studios in Liverpool – and this shortfall continues to make headlines and generate think pieces in UK media. A Guardian article from 2015 warned starkly that “research highlights a continuing failure of the sector to train and retrain female employees, particularly given the fact that Britain is expected to need 1.2 million new digital workers by 2022. More than 800,000 of those new workers will be needed to replace workers leaving the sector, while the rest will be needed to support expected growth.”

Pointing out these discrepancies seems to be a far more popular pastime in media circles than actually trying to think honestly about why these things are true with UKCES admitting that despite analysing huge chunks of data – observable cause and effect in this area is still vague.

The gender imbalance in related courses at colleges and universities could well be a result of societal pressures and stereotypes subtly guiding genders down different career pathways from an early age. It could also be a perfectly natural reflection of very observable tendencies for boys to be more interested in technology than girls – heresy though that may be to say out loud.

Conversely, there is major under-representation of men in other sectors of the UK economy; HR, (83% female) nursing (90%) school teaching (81%) meeting and convention planning (78%) and social work (80%). A very valid question for the national discourse could be – does it matter?

Is it that in certain sectors, men or women are under-represented through discrimination and lack of balanced opportunity? Or is it simply due to differing passions and observable differences between the genders?

If the female contingent of Mocha’s core team are anything to go by – passion and talent in Creative and Digital is absolutely something that is not an exclusively male attribute, and a big priority within our business is the equal opportunity to any member of the team, regardless of gender, age or background, to progress and develop their talents.

Initiatives such as Liverpool Girl Geeks are making great strides towards decreasing the gender imbalance in Tech through events, workshops and training courses. On a local level at least, this kind of community can really drive up interest in Creative and Digital among the female population and break down stigmas and barriers to entry. An important aspect of the Liverpool Girl Geeks community is it’s multi-generational outlook – critical if the wider industry imbalance is to shift.

Women with a passion for the Digital and Creative sectors should obviously and absolutely be given every possible encouragement from as early an age as possible. These sectors are big success stories for the UK, and in order for them to flourish further we need to ensure that all potential talent is being taught, trained and nurtured, and crucially at a young age. Girls in school need to know that there are very real avenues into Creative and Digital for them, as much as there are opportunities in nursing for boys.

A case in point are our friends and neighbours at The Studio, a state-of-the-art school and sixth form college specialising in creative media, gaming and digital technology. If this year’s intake of students is anything to go by, there is a much greater gender balance in the 14-18 year old bracket than there is working in the sector currently.

This suggests we may be turning a corner, when it comes to the future talent pool in Creative and Digital – and that can only be positive for all of us.

The Women and Men at Mocha