Dell UK chief executive says IT is 'not just for geeks'

IT worker Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption IT departments across the UK are, on average, 84% male

Wales can have a "great future" in the technology sector but firms need to attract more women to build on success, says a leading industry figure.

Tim Griffin, chief executive of Dell UK, said firms were working closely with universities and Welsh ministers to put "solid foundations in place".

But he added that technology was "not just for geeks" and it had a perception problem which stopped women applying.

It comes as a £10m fund is launched to improve gender equality in workplaces.

Mr Griffin, who previously studied and worked in Cardiff, was back in the city to speak to Cardiff Business Club.

He said Wales had done a good job in attracting large corporations and encouraging entrepreneurship.

Dell, one of the biggest companies in the technology sector, manufactures computers but also develops software and operates online security products.

Only 16% of IT roles in UK are taken by women - in Wales it is 19% .

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Media captionTim Griffin says role models are important for getting more women to work in technology

Mr Griffin said three of his four senior general managers are women and having "inspirational role models" was important in encouraging more female candidates to come forward.

But he added that more needed to be done including working with schools and universities to improve the situation.

Schools are particularly important because access to some technology jobs are dependent on the choice of subjects chosen.

"There's a perception issue and that happens at a very young age. It's not just a reflection on IT.

"It happens across society where we create stereotypes and encourage conformity for females as well as males which causes all sorts of problems."

The home of the tech industry, Silicon Valley, has been rocked recently by accusations of sexual discrimination including at Facebook and Twitter - both companies deny the claim.

Mr Griffin said this emphasises the need for having senior role models in positions not just in the UK but across the globe.

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Karen Price, chief executive of employers' body e-skills has called the gender imbalance and the way it has persisted as "shocking".

She said the misperceptions of IT relate to it being "hard, dull and unsocial".

Its survey of 700 UK workers in IT found nearly eight out of 10 (79%) felt that the profession would benefit from having more women working in IT roles.


Image caption Rachel Paul is learning more web design and coding skills

Rachel Paul is one of 60 people learning skills ranging from IT to web design in the workplace through the Women Adding Value to the Economy (WAVE) project.

She already had an interest in graphic design at school and college but for the last five months has been taking on web design and coding work.

Her employers, Coastal Housing in Swansea, spotted the potential when she started work as a business administrative assistant.

Ms Paul, 22, from Llanelli, said: "Even to me it can seem geeky, people see you at the computer and you have what looks like the Matrix in front of you.

"It's not glamorous for some people but putting something in code and then seeing how it turns out on the web - it's then 'wow'!

"Within a couple of weeks of starting the course I was able to start working on things for our website. I'm interesting in getting more advanced web design and coding in the future."


Image copyright Thinkstock

The fast-growing sector in south Wales also includes a number of technology companies based around travel and finance, while Cardiff also has an emerging gaming cluster.

But last October, a Welsh government report said the key challenges facing the ICT sector included a decline in the number of companies and workers since 2002 and addressing the increasing shortage of qualified IT professionals across all sectors in Wales.

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