by Edward Qualtrough

John Lewis IT director Paul Coby backs gender equality initiative

Mar 05, 20153 mins
IT Leadership

John LewisIT Director Paul Coby hopes some of the partnership’s volunteers can inspire young girls to enter the technology industry and tackle the sector’s gender imbalance.

Research released yesterday by the Tech Partnership shows that just 17% of technology professionals are female – while at the most senior levels the 2014 CIO 100 was only 7% female and Gartner reports a more optimistic global CIO figure of around 14%. Early indications suggest the 2015 CIO 100 is significantly more diverse and closer to Gartner’s figure.

While Coby has previously championed the employee-owned retailer’s Technology Apprenticeship scheme to help the organisation tackle the “IT skills gap in young people”, the CIO 100 high flyer has backed the Tech Partnership’s TechFuture Girls clubs by sending John Lewis volunteers into a London primary school to help demystify coding and inspire the future female workforce.

Coby said: “We are a growing omnichannel business, with our partners and customers being exposed to new kinds of technology almost every day whether it be in shops, online or mobile. So we are delighted to work with our local school to inspire girls to consider careers in technology.”

The John Lewis volunteers were joined by Skills and Equalities Minister Nick Boles at St Vincent de Paul RC Primary School in Victoria to see how employers were creating a talent pipeline for the future.

The Minister of State for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and the Department for Education, said: “The digital economy is creating growth, prosperity and jobs across the UK. In such a fast-paced industry, companies need to innovate to be at the cutting edge of new technologies, and a diverse workforce is key to this.

“That is why we have unveiled plans for a new National College for Digital Skills to provide the right skills and a route into digital careers for those inspired by projects like TechFuture Girls Club.”

A number of large technology employers including IBM, Intel, HP and Capgemini, have voiced their concerns about a growing IT skills gap- and observing that they are largely missing out on half the talent pool have suggested one of the best ways to tackle this would be to increase number of girls studying STEM subjects at school.

Recently Intel has gone even further with its $300 million diversity pledge. Concerned by both its diversity figures and its entire business – which has moved beyond semi-conductor manufacturing and into wearables, the Internet of Things and smartphones – the organisation has stated on the record it realises it is unlikely to crack other markets, develop new products, innovate, and sell devices on a mass scale if 76% of its employees are male, and hopes it can create a blueprint for other oranisations