SME Member of the Week: Next Tech Girls
Next Tech Girls is the first of March's SME Member of the Week. This month, techUK focusing on Women in Tech. Throughout March, we are showcasing how SME members are supporting this women in tech and supporting gender diversity within the tech industry.
Next Tech Girls was set up by tech recruitment agency Empiric to tackle the underrepresentation of women in the tech industry at the grassroots level. They partner with companies and educational institutions to deliver tech-focused events, training and work placements for teenage girls.
How did your company start?
When Empiric was founded in 2005, we didn’t want to be like every other tech recruiter. From the outset we’ve specialised in niche markets where companies were struggling to find the best talent, and we’ve prioritised fostering a progressive and inclusive culture where people can be their true selves and achieve their full potential.
As we grew over the years, so did the digital skills gap. Gender representation was also becoming an increasing priority for our clients, and we were aware that when we were finding women candidates, we were moving them from one company to another and not doing anything to improve the gender gap across the industry.
We didn’t want to be another company talking about the problem, we wanted to take action and start contributing to meaningful change. So in 2016, after doing some research into when the gender gap starts and considering how we could make best use of our skills and networks, we set up Next Tech Girls and started partnering with companies and schools to organise tech-focused work experience placements for teenage girls. We hoped that by giving girls hands-on experience of a career in tech at an age when studies show their interest tends to drop off, we could change their perspectives and the future of the industry.
Seven years later, what started as a grassroots initiative is now an award-winning social enterprise. We’ve already run placements for over 350 girls, with 95% motivated to pursue a tech career and many now working in the industry. Last year, we appointed a new director, Emily Hall-Strutt, who’s brought her years of experience as a woman in tech and DEI leader in government to scale up Next Tech Girls' reach and impact. She’s since rebranded and launched online events, with an aim to directly engage 10,000 girls around the UK by the end of 2023, and 250,000 around the world by 2030.
How does your company contribute to this month's theme?
Our aim is to smash the stereotype and inspire the next generation of women in tech, with a focus on those from lower socio-economic and/or ethnic minority backgrounds. One of the ways we do that is by sharing the stories of diverse women working in the industry, across social media and via our events. We believe that if you can see it, you can be it, so these women serve as relatable role models to our audience of teenage girls. In the last 6 months we’ve showcased over 50 women, raising their profiles and celebrating their achievements in the industry.
Since 2016 we’ve also given more than 800 girls experience of a tech career through our placements and events. Our reach is expanding rapidly: by the end of 2023 we are aiming to directly engage 10,000 girls and hope to inspire many of them to pursue a career in tech.
Who's behind your company?
At Next Tech Girls our motto is #SmashTheStereotype and our values are Curiosity, Creativity and Community. We show girls that there’s a variety of roles in the tech industry, many of which don’t actually require any technical skills. We encourage them to ask questions, try things out, and be open to different options for their future careers. We help them to build their network of current and future women in tech, to support them on their journeys into the industry.
Next Tech Girls’ director, Emily Hall-Strutt, lives and breathes our mission. She fell into the tech industry after studying languages at university and joining the Civil Service Fast Stream graduate scheme:
“I had no intention of working in tech (and didn’t think I could) but after being placed in a digital team six months into my government graduate scheme I was so inspired by the creativity, collaboration and innovation that I knew it was where I wanted to build my career. I want to give as many teenage girls as possible the experience of a career in tech too, so that they can see what it’s really like and hopefully many of them will become just as passionate about it as I am.
Technology is already such an integral part of our lives, we need women to be well-represented in the teams that are designing and building the tech we use every day, not just because it makes economic sense but also to ensure that it’s easy and safe for everyone to use. There are so many examples of technology being developed without diverse perspectives and we can’t continue to build products that don't meet half the population’s needs.”
Some quotes from Next Tech Girls:
“I already had a strong interest in coding and the placements helped to reassure me that this was the direction I wanted to go in. I just completed a Computer Science degree and I've started a software engineering graduate programme with Tesco.” - Naamua, Next Tech Girls participant
“My experiences through Next Tech Girls helped me see myself having a career in technology and allowed me to be more confident in my choices coming out of sixth form. I’m now working for Jaguar Land Rover as a software engineering degree apprentice.” - Geneva, Next Tech Girls participant.
What’s your perspective on the present and the future of this month's theme?
The UK tech industry has a growing skills gap and with women making up only 26% of tech workers, encouraging and supporting more women into tech careers will help address both issues and build a more successful and inclusive future workforce that can meet society’s needs.
There are many organisations tackling this from various angles. It’s important to encourage career switchers as a more immediate solution, but we also need to tackle the problem at its root and start to build up a sustainable pipeline of future talent. That’s where Next Tech Girls comes in.
We would love to see a day when we don’t need organisations, awards or initiatives for women in tech because they’re no longer underrepresented or undervalued and are instead an integral part of the tech industry at all levels, celebrated all year round.
Since launching online events last October, we’ve more than doubled the number of girls we’ve worked with. So far this year 15 girls have taken part in work experience placements and 100% of them have been encouraged to pursue future careers in tech. We’re now organising our first online events of 2023 during the week of International Women’s Day (which is also National Careers Week), with over 700 girls signed up to attend so far, from 18 schools around the UK.
What does the future look like for your company?
We’ve set ourselves ambitious goals for growth. This year we’re on track to directly engage 10,000 girls around the UK. By 2030 we want to increase that to 250,000 worldwide. If we want to build a pipeline of future tech talent that can fill the growing skills and gender gaps, then we need to be reaching and inspiring large numbers of girls to pursue careers in the industry. .
Asks for other members
At Next Tech Girls we’re always looking for companies and volunteers to support our work. If you want to inspire – and be inspired by – the next generation of diverse tech talent, get in touch to discuss ways you and your organisation could get involved in and benefit from our audience and expertise.
Instagram - @nexttechgirls
TikTok - @nexttechgirls
Twitter - @NextTechGirls
Facebook - Next Tech Girls
LinkedIn - Next Tech Girls
SME Member of the Week: April - Healthtech
For April's SME Member of the Week, we’ll be focusing on healthtech. With health and care systems around the globe facing increasing pressures, the use of digital technology has never been more important. We'll be looking to showcase SMEs who have developed innovative technologies within health and social care, and who are ensuring the UK's health systems are prepared for the future.
techUK – Women in Tech
techUK is marching forward to close the tech gender gap in 2023. Throughout March, coinciding with International Women’s Day (IWD 2023) on 8 March, we are exploring how we embrace equitable workplaces. The UN’s theme for IWD 2023 focuses on Digital for All or DigitALL, and we are proud to support this.