An Interview with Sue Mosley, HR Business Partner BBC, Design & Engineering.
The Women ‘Stepping Into Tech’
The Step Into Tech Programme focuses on getting more women in technology careers. The pilot consisted of 14 weeks training. Including an intense week in Manchester, one evening per week in Manchester and additional home learning with support. The course was part time. Programme two is underway attracting around 900 applicants from London alone.
We love to celebrate the organisations who are getting things right when it comes to women in technology. Sometimes organisations do get things wrong. Like so many the BBC had a significant issue with the gender pay gap. Sue Mosley tells us how the BBC have learned from findings. She talks about what they are doing to encourage more women to embark on careers in technology.
What were the key drivers that led to the development of the ‘Step Into Tech’ programme?
Current stats tell us that the tech industry has an average of 17% females. Software engineering is a profession that is hugely male dominated, and the UK’s is facing a digital skills crisis.
If we want to fix the skills gap, then we as organisations need to be more imaginative in the ways of attracting talent and provide opportunities for progression. We also need to ensure that we’re always striving to have as diverse a workforce as possible. We need to make sure that we continue to be creative, foster innovation and serve our diverse audience.
The pilot programme was a huge success. What were the key findings or successes?
The success of programme one is down to so many factors. It isn’t just about running a part-time training programme. It is essential that all the participants on the programme are fully committed to learn. That they are passionate about progressing a career within the profession. The measure of success was based on who completed training and then progressed into a role within software engineering and at the BBC.
The delivery of the training had to be adaptable to everyone’s different learning styles. It was essential that the cohort felt part of the BBC throughout their training . This is instrumental in encouraging them to want to progress their careers with us!
The BBC Step into Tech programme has 16 places. From the first assessment session of 47 shortlisted applicants, it was a real challenge to select 16. The calibre of the individuals was superb as so many of them demonstrated the attributes we were looking for. We could have quite easily run 2 programmes at the same time!
Do you think the UK will see more programmes like ‘Step Into Tech’ over the next few years?
I’d like to think so, as there is most definitely an appetite for them. I know of one other organisation who already run a very similar programme. Knowing how successful that programme was and consulting with them, this is really how our Step into Tech programme came about.
There is a huge appetite from individuals who clearly want to learn, develop skills and change career paths. This is a great pool of talent to tap into. The BBC and other organisations can provide those opportunities for this talent pool and help fix the digital skills crisis as well as supporting diversity initiatives.
The ‘Step Into Tech’ programme focuses on women taking their firs steps into a career in tech. What about the career returners. Those who previously found a tech career lacked the flexibility they needed or was too male dominated? Can programmes like the ‘Step Into Tech’ be replicated and adapted to suit returners?
Yes of course they can, many of the aspects on the programme also focused on personal development too. This focus proved really beneficial to some of the cohort. Especially those who were just embarking on that return to work after a career break. So long as those individuals can demonstrate they have the qualities that make a good software engineer, then the programme can suit any individual. Regardless of whether they are a career returner or otherwise, in terms of the flexibility around working.
At the BBC we have a significant number of software engineers who have flexible working.
With technology advancing the digital skills gap is becoming a serious concern for organisations. What role do you think women have to play in filling this digital skills gap?
Women definitely have a huge role to play in helping bridge some of the digital skills gaps. Currently in the UK there are 427,000 professional women alone who want to return to work at some point. Of those women, 3 in 5 return to lower skilled or lower paid jobs following those career breaks. Therefore, organisations need to be more creative in their approach to talent attraction. They should be open to offering re-training opportunities as well as flexible working options.
11 out of 16 women from our first Step into Tech programme secured roles in our Design + Engineering division as software engineers. All these women came from very different professions i.e. teaching, medical, admin, legal etc; and this was through the creative approach we adopted.