The rapid growth in the UK’s tech sector has created an urgent need to tempt more talented women back into the workplace.

The digital sector (both producers and users of digital technology) accounts for 16% of GVA, 24% of total exports, and three million jobs in the UK, says techUK, whose 900 members range from innovative start-up businesses to world-leading global tech companies.

Jobs remain unfilled, so in response techUK is launching a central hub of information for tech returners to help individuals who want to come back. It will also assist employers that need more support to implement their own returner programme.

The Returners Hub launched on March 8 and will include resources for returners, including information on free courses, reading materials, mentorship programmes, and more. 

“There are almost two million women in the UK who are economically inactive due to caring commitments, and 76% of professional women on career breaks want to return to work,” says techUK president Jacqueline de Rojas.

She says the idea of supporting women returners is not new but there is an added urgency because the widening skills gap in the tech sector threatens productivity. Meanwhile almost every business has some digital element nowadays.

“The fact is we are creating more jobs than we can fill in the UK and the country will need thousands of additional workers with digital skills, especially post-Brexit,” says de Rojas. “This is not about diversity for diversity’s sake, although this remains a very male dominated sector.”

The Returners Hub will hopefully solve one challenge that many employers face, which is to actually find the female talent that has left the industry.

techUK says companies must do more to ensure they do not lose touch with their skilled women in the first place.

De Rojas believes more women would want to return to the sector if they were kept aware of new developments.

“We advise members to encourage women to stay in contact with the business,” she says. “A returner programme should include sending out tech updates and inviting women to attend events while they are away from work. This will help them to feel more confident about coming back when the time is right.”

She adds that women also need to know how employers are embracing flexible working and how fast pay is growing compared to other industries.

“We need to land the story about a career in tech among women who have left the industry, and among schoolchildren. This is not easy because many of the tech jobs that today’s schoolchildren will do don’t exist yet.”

De Rojas says male executives are keen to put in place returner programmes but it is important that women can return to leadership positions.

“Every tech company needs men and women who can drive the diversity agenda and support returners,” she says.  “Men understand the career opportunities because they have wives, daughters and nieces, but we need women at the top table and not just in the room when we are having the debate.”