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Help Scotland’s SMEs Address the Gender Skills Gap

Svea Miesch


Gender Skills Gap Scotland

More than 90,000 people already work in Scotland’s digital technology sector. There are around 12,800 vacancies every year and many businesses struggle to fill these roles. What can be done?

Svea Miesch, Research and Policy Manager, ScotlandISThe pervasive nature of digital means that businesses across all sectors in Scotland are increasingly adopting digital technologies to deliver new products and services. This drives productivity and opens up fresh markets but also drives up demand for new staff.

Despite this, the proportion of women in digitally focused roles is only 18% as opposed to 48% in the workforce as a whole and 39% in other skilled occupations. There is an enormous opportunity to meet many of the digital technologies industry’s skills needs by closing the technology gender gap.

In addition to addressing the growing skills gap, there are robust business, legal and moral cases for improving gender diversity in companies. We know that where there are greater levels of diversity, companies experience greater returns on investment, equity and sales.

The Value of Diversity

Women’s equal participation in STEM is estimated to be worth an annual £170 million to the Scottish economy. When it comes to the development of new digital products and services, teams with a more varied range of backgrounds and life experiences are crucial to bring in fresh ideas and understand the needs of a diverse customer base.

Over the last few years, an increasing number of companies have started taking action and working in partnership with educational institutions and the skills agencies to attract and retain more women to the digital technologies sector. This is reflected in the results of the recent Scottish Technology Industry Survey 2018, conducted by ScotlandIS, which showed that more than 68% of responding digital tech businesses have already taken action to address the technology gender gap.

The most commonly taken step by survey respondents to attract more women is to offer flexible working patterns that are compatible with child care commitments. 55% have tried this measure and found that it helps and only 6% of respondents are unlikely to try it. Around 25% of responding companies provide female role models for engagement with schools and universities and/or support initiatives like Scotland Women in Technology (SWiT) or Girl Geek Scotland.

SMEs Struggling

The least used measure is the provision of return-to-work training for women after a career break (15%) even though 71% of respondents would consider this step.

However, the figures also reveal that large businesses (more than 500 employees) were more likely than small and medium companies to have successfully implemented any of the measures mentioned above. SMEs often report that they struggle to develop more inclusive workplace policies and practices due to a lack of time, resources, access to expertise and awareness of effective practices.

The ENGENDERING STEM project has been set up to help SMEs in digital tech and other sectors that recruit for technical/STEM roles to overcome these barriers. City of Glasgow College, Equate Scotland and partners from the Netherlands and Spain are working together to develop an evidence based self-assessment toolkit, best practice guides and blended learning training solutions.

Do you work for a technology or engineering company with fewer than 250 employees? Then the ENGENDERING STEM project wants to hear from you! There are three ways to get involved:

  • Get Advice and Support – We will work with you to provide tailored recommendations and support to improve the gender balance in your business – all you have to do is complete our free online self-assessment tool
  • Give Your Views – What are your views on getting more women into Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM)? Fill in our anonymous survey
  • Share Best Practice – Do you have a success story to share? ENGENDERING STEM can promote this to a European audience in our series of best practice guides. Share your case study with us

For more information visit the website or contact

EU Erasmus Plus programmeENGENDERING STEM is funded by the ERASMUS+ programme.

Svea Miesch, Research and Policy Manager, ScotlandIS

Svea Miesch

Research and Policy Manager, ScotlandIS

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