Why does it even matter? Quite simply, it matters because the demand for data skills is increasing exponentially (over 1,000% increase since 2019. Yes, you read that right!). And if we can’t increase the available talent pool, the number of businesses struggling to recruit for these roles is also going to increase exponentially.
Data is intrinsic to every business and advances in technology have led to an explosion in data and a growing demand for data skills. Data is now the number one skill requirement in UK tech – a rise from 3rd position in previous years. And jobs in the broader digital economy now account for 14% of the UK workforce – that's an unbelievable 4.7m people (reference: Tech Nation’s People & Skills 2022 report).
A report by the UK Government “Quantifying the UK Data Skills Gap 2021” not surprisingly found good data skills were in short supply overall, and candidates lacked the right skills and experience. Almost half of businesses (46%) have struggled to recruit for roles that require data skills.
Data economies are vital for generating growth, creating value, and driving healthy competition. But the global skills shortage, coupled with the “great resignation” during the pandemic, means we need to look at the available talent pool differently.
So how can we increase the talent pool and close the data skills gap? By focusing on new talent coming through the education system and by up-skilling the existing workforce.
Most important of all in both approaches, women and girls are a HUGE, untapped talent pool because of the gender imbalance that exists in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths). Women are still under-represented in most STEM professions, accounting for 24% of the STEM workforce in the UK (Source – STEM Women). And it's worse in data: Women in Data report male data analysts and scientists outnumber females 4 to 1.
As an industry we’re missing an opportunity to double the talent pool by providing support to encourage more women in data, breaking down barriers to entry and progression, promoting opportunities in data, and embracing a more inclusive culture.
There’s a long way to go but everyone one of us can play a part – by offering guidance on opportunities available and how to pursue a data-related career, tackling gender bias, influencing curriculum content to improve data literacy, promoting the value of women in data and technology, becoming a role model or mentor to girls and women in data, getting involved in events and networking with women in data. Only then will we increase the pool of available talent, and all reach our full potential.
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