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By Ben Guerin
Press releases

Parliament aims to improve tech gender gap by recruiting more female coders

4 min read

A new scheme to hire more female data and software engineers is due to be launched in Parliament.

The scheme, run by Parliament in partnership with social enterprise Code First Girls, recruits trainees to the Parliamentary Digital Service (PDS) in a bid to get more women working in technology.

The Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, and the Lord Speaker, Lord McFall of Alcluith, will launch the project at an event at Speaker’s House today.

The majority of those who have already been recruited were on the lookout for a career change, and have backgrounds in a diverse range of fields: including recruitment, languages, chemistry and scientific research. The scheme will run for a year initially, but the PDS hopes to continue welcoming trainees in the longer term.

The PDS will also sponsor trainees through a Code First Girls degree. The 16-week CFGdegree has four specialisations for trainees to choose from: in either data, software, full-stack or product management. Each trainee will complete an eight-week foundation course followed by six weeks in their specialisation area, with two weeks dedicated to coding practice.

Ahead of the event, Sir Lindsay said: “It is great to welcome so many new female trainees to the Parliamentary Digital Service (PDS) – for some this will be their second career after success in other industries. Around 40 per cent of PDS staff are women – that’s twice as many as the national average in tech, but with the help of the training opportunities provided by Code First Girls, we hope to do even better.

He went on: "More female staff coming from different working backgrounds and at different stages of life will help ensure our digital team is even stronger and better able to respond to the needs of a modern Parliament.”

Lord McFall added: “Digital technology is changing our lives now and will change them even more in the future. The nation needs tech-savvy workers, and I know that we can find them among people from all sorts of diverse backgrounds.

"I’m delighted that the Parliamentary Digital Service is partnering with Code First Girls in this excellent initiative to develop the tech talents of women and girls. I hope this project will be a stepping stone for trainees to a rewarding and successful career, helping them to play their part in building the UK of the future," he added.

As of June 2022, there were 512,900 men employed as programmers and software development professionals, web design professionals, and data analysts in the United Kingdom, according to statistics on occupation and gender from the latest Office for National Statistics Annual Population Survey published in December 2022. By comparison, there were only 113,900 women doing these jobs.

While the amount of women working as programmers and software developers in the UK has increased – according to the Office for National Statistics, in 2021 there were 15,000 more women working in these roles than in the previous year – women currently only make up 25 per cent of coding jobs, according to SheCodes.

A spokesperson from PDS said that although 41 per cent of PDS employees are women, and this figure is more than double the national average in the wider tech industry, it wants to continue to work towards closing the gender gap.

Marianne Cwynarski, director general (operations) for the House of Commons, said: “I am delighted to welcome the Code First Girls candidates to our parliamentary community. We are working towards closing the gender technology gap and are championing women in digital roles."

Filipa Sampaio is one of the seven trainees already recruited onto the PDS scheme. She said: "I have a background in biology, some coding experience, and for the past couple of years I have been working as a research assistant in a genomics lab. I want to switch to a tech career as I am keen to use data to help make informed data-driven decisions and identify areas for improvement, which I find exciting." 

Code First Girls has become one of the largest providers of free coding courses for women globally, having already delivered more than £75m worth of free technology education and helped more than 120,000 women learn to code.  

Anna Brailsford, chief executive officer at the social enterprise, said: “We are delighted to partner with UK Parliament to support more women into the tech industry, helping their digital team to recruit more female coders. There is currently a stark gender gap, with many women facing significant barriers to entering STEM careers, starting at school and continuing throughout their lives."

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