OREANDA-NEWS. October 15, 2015. The Could IT Be You? competition, was set up in 2013 by Network Rail’s chief information officer, Susan Cooklin, after she raised concerns about the slide in the number of women entering the UK's IT sector

According to the employer body e-skills UK, the number of women working in the IT industry in Britain is falling dramatically. In the 1980s it was as high as 38% but by 2013 has fallen to just 16%.  Every year the IT and telecoms professional workforce requires more than 22,500 new entrants directly from education, but at present, only 13% of students on IT-related degrees in the UK are female.

Launching the 2015 competition, Susan Cooklin said: “Popular culture has helped create a perception among young women that a career in IT is all about writing code in basement offices – the reality couldn't be further from the truth. Technology plays a crucial role in all our lives and is absolutely vital to Network Rail as we carry out our Railway Upgrade Plan. This competition is a fantastic way for young women to learn about the great opportunities that a career in IT can offer.”

She added: “It seems right that we should launch our competition on Ada Lovelace Day, a celebration of the 19th century mathematician considered to be the first computer programmer. Women make up half of the UK population yet only 16% of the IT industry. Our own research revealed that two-thirds of young women had not even considered a career in IT. This is a real missed opportunity for many of those women and for British business, which is missing out on a huge amount of talent. We must all do more to reverse this trend.”

The Could IT Be You? competition is open to girls aged 16-18 and asks them to explain how technology can improve their lives and make things better. As well as ?9,000 towards university tuition fees, the winner and four runners up, receive paid work experience and a year’s coaching and mentoring with Network Rail’s IT team.

Zoe Moore, from Towcester in Northamptonshire, won the inaugural Could IT Be You? competition in 2013 and has just begun her studies in Politics and Economics at the University of Nottingham. She said: "The work experience and mentoring that were offered as part of the prize were fantastic. I’ve been inspired by the people I met and by the experience of seeing just how important technology is to keeping the railway running and making it better. This competition opened my eyes to the great opportunities that can be had with a career in IT.”

The Could IT Be You? competition is open for entries - further details can be found at www.coulditbu.co.uk. The closing date for submissions is 30 November 2015.

Notes to editors

  • Girls aged 16-18 can enter the Could IT Be You? competition by visiting the website www.coulditbu.co.uk and can chat with the Network Rail IT project team on Twitter @couldITbu15
  • Could IT Be You? Won the Real IT Industry Ambassador award in 2014.
  • A survey conducted in 2013 for Network Rail of 16-24 year old women in Britain revealed:

    - 64% of women have not considered a career in IT.
    - 28% had but were not currently working in the industry.
    - Negative stereotypes put 10% off pursuing a career with 43% saying it was a lack of technical skill. A further 41% said it was inadequate career advice or little insight into the industry.
    - 58% believe that a high level of technical expertise in computer programming or code is the most important skill for a successful career in IT. 23% thought a degree or college qualification in a technology subject was most important.
    - Only 4% thought good project management skills were the most important with only 7% citing good communication skills as the most valuable.