BUSINESSES in Scotland’s digital technologies sector are being encouraged to sign up for a new programme designed to give employers the advice, skills and insights needed to increase the number of women working in the industry.

A free webinar series has been developed by Skills Development Scotland and Equate Scotland, in partnership with the Digital Technologies Skills Group, in response to new research that found women account for only 18 per cent of Scotland’s tech workforce.

To meet skills demands and remain globally competitive, Scotland must increase the diversity of the sector and support the ambitions of girls and women.

The interactive webinars, running on April 18, 24 and 27, are suitable for all digital technologies employers, from start-ups and SMEs to large organisations.

They will guide employers through a number of areas including how to take positive action measures, how to recruit and retain women, the business and economic case for increasing women’s representation in the sector, implementing flexible working, overcoming barriers, and tackling biased language.

A Best Practice Guide is also available, featuring case studies from employers taking action on improving the gender balance in tech roles across Scotland.

Edinburgh headquartered FreeAgent is one of the companies that has contributed to the new resources and Olly Headey, co-founder and CTO, says: “As employers it’s important that we are aware of how we position ourselves in the market to ensure we are being as inclusive as possible.

“This means understanding the laws on discrimination, paying attention to the wording on our job adverts, being aware of the impact of cognitive biases during interviews and ensuring we create an inclusive workplace culture.

“The more focus companies put on improving diversity in their workplace, and the more we talk about it openly within our industry, the better our chances of success will be.”

Talat Yaqoob, Director of Equate Scotland, said that with only 18 per cent of women in the Scottish technology workforce, it was time for diversity in the sector to overcome the skills shortage but also to remain globally competitive and creative.

“This guide is designed to support employers to take action on gender equality and implement real change. Whether an organisation is a start-up or an established large employer, there are steps everyone can take to overcome the gender gap in technology,” she said.

Evelyn Walker, chair of the Digital Technologies Skills Group’s Gender Work Stream, said: “Sharing real-world projects, tactics, tools and success stories will help more individuals and organisations to get involved in tackling the gender gap.

“Research indicates that there are a lot of females who are open to the idea of working in tech. To turn that willingness into a real increase in the number of women in our sector we need to reach, support and inspire them to take the next steps.”

The initiative is part of the group’s action plan to boost female participation in the digital technology sector. In March, more than 150 representatives from industry, education and the public sector gathered in Glasgow for Tackling the Technology Gender Gap Together 2017. Firms sharing advice with the audience included Compute Application Software, FDM Group, FanDuel, and JP Morgan.