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East Anglia Future 50

'There's Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, but we need women tech role models,' says director

PUBLISHED: 13:41 12 February 2019 | UPDATED: 15:58 12 February 2019

Claire Thorpe at SimpleClick   Pictures: Ross Dean Photography

Claire Thorpe at SimpleClick Pictures: Ross Dean Photography

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‘Only one in 40 CVs come from a woman’ says Claire Thorpe at SimpleClick in Ipswich.

Claire Thorpe with some team members at SimpleClick   Pictures: Ross Dean PhotographyClaire Thorpe with some team members at SimpleClick Pictures: Ross Dean Photography

Efforts to encourage young women to consider a career in technology should start during their school years, according to a director of a software business in Suffolk.

Claire Thorpe is consultancy director at SimpleClick in Ipswich - a company that employs a team of ten who build bespoke websites, software and apps.

But while the business is growing and taking on new people, very few applications come from women.

READ MORE: From humble beginnings in a garage office to one of the UK’s fastest growing software companies

Stereotypes

“We’ve been going for ten years and during that time we have been constantly recruiting for developers, and I would estimate only around one in 30 or 40 CVs comes from a woman,” said Ms Thorpe.

Claire Thorpe has become a STEM Ambassador to encourage more young women to consider a job in the tech sector   Pictures: Ross Dean PhotographyClaire Thorpe has become a STEM Ambassador to encourage more young women to consider a job in the tech sector Pictures: Ross Dean Photography

“We’ve never had an application from a woman for a senior developer role in ten years.

“There’s a lot factors as to why this is: it starts in school where computing, ICT and media are not viewed as subjects for girls, These gender stereotypes and peer pressure push them towards another subject.

“It’s so drilled into us when we are a young - when you think of a coder, people don’t think of a woman, they think of Bill Gates at Microsoft or Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook. We need women role models.”

Ambassador

Ms Thorpe is not a techie herself and entered the sector through a marketing and project management route. She has recently become a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Ambassador, so she can go into schools to talk about the opportunities that exist working in computing and technology.

“It’s an opportunity to talk to girls about the work they could be doing and the type of money they could be earning,” she added.

“Hopefully, I can help this information filter down because part of the problem is that many teachers don’t know the full range of jobs that are available [in tech].”

Microsoft tycoon Bill Gates is a technology hero but where are the female tech role models?   Picture: Paul Hackett/PA WireMicrosoft tycoon Bill Gates is a technology hero but where are the female tech role models? Picture: Paul Hackett/PA Wire

Transferable skills

Ms Thorpe said more employers need to offer flexible and part-time working to encourage women to apply for roles that will allow them to work around family commitments.

She also said she felt all the different coding languages used in software development might deter women from the sector.

She added: “Common languages include .Net, C#, Java, PHP – that could be part of the reason why women don’t apply. They think they need to know all these but we don’t expect that. If they know a few languages, they will have a lot of transferable skills.

“I remember reading a Hewlett Packard survey which said men will apply for a position if they satisfy 60% of the requirements on a job spec whereas women feel they must hit 100% before they apply. Maybe it has something to do with confidence or a greater awareness that they don’t want to waste someone’s time.”

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