The UK's defence and aerospace industry is making strides to bridge the gender diversity gap in the workforce, especially in the field of coding. With the historic goal of launching satellites from UK soil, prominent industry players have embarked on a recruitment drive to attract more female coders. This article explores the current status of women in the aerospace and defence sectors, highlights the initiatives taken to encourage female participation, and sheds light on the rising interest of women in tech-related roles.
The Gender Disparity in Aerospace and Defence: Despite notable breakthroughs, women remain significantly underrepresented in the aerospace and defence sectors, reflecting a wider trend in STEM education and careers. While the contributions of women like Helen Sharman, the UK's first astronaut, and the key role played by women in the US lunar mission have brought attention to their capabilities, the United Nations reports that the overall number of women in the global aerospace industry has stagnated at around 20-22% for the past three decades. Furthermore, women tend to occupy administrative and educational positions rather than technical roles, intensifying the underlying gender gap within the industry.
Driving Change & Encouraging Female Coders: Recognising the urgent need for change, several prominent organisations within the UK defence and aerospace industry are taking proactive steps to attract and support female coders. In-Space Missions, working alongside the UK Space Agency, the BBC, and Lunar Mission One, is actively seeking female software engineers to enhance communication with satellites and spacecraft. They have partnered with Code First Girls, the largest provider of free coding courses for women, to sponsor aspiring female coders from various professional and educational backgrounds, offering them the opportunity to study for a software degree.
Code First Girls and Changing Perspective: Code First Girls, a female-founded business, is leading the charge to close the gender gap in the tech industry by providing free education and employment opportunities for women. Encouragingly, more women are now exploring coding roles, despite 74% reporting that tech careers were neither mentioned nor encouraged during their time in school. This growing interest in coding roles extends beyond traditional tech firms, with non-tech companies recognising the value of diverse perspectives to foster innovation.
Tech Interests: Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Big Data: A recent survey conducted by Code First Girls revealed that women in the UK's tech industry are increasingly interested in areas such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data. This aligns with the fast-evolving landscape of technology and the demand for skilled professionals in these domains. By cultivating a supportive environment and providing access to relevant training and opportunities, the aerospace and defence industries can tap into this burgeoning interest, attracting talented women to contribute their expertise and bridge the gender gap.
The lack of female coders in the UK's aerospace and defence industries persists, reflecting broader trends in STEM fields. However, by leveraging partnerships with organisations like Code First Girls and actively promoting diversity and inclusion, the industry is taking significant steps to address this disparity, opening doors for more women to embark on coding careers and contribute to ground-breaking technological advancements.