Q&A: How is 2016 looking for STEM and women in tech?

As is the norm for this time of year, we have been inundated with 2016 predictions, most of which have centred around the likes of cyber security and the Internet of Things.

Another hot topic that hasn't received as much coverage is women in tech, an area which has grown in prominence over the last 12 months as high profile companies such as Apple and Facebook have looked to address the issue.

Regina Moran, CEO of Fujitsu UK & Ireland, is the latest to share her predictions for the tech sector in 2016, highlighting some of the things she wants to see happen in the new year.

What do you think will be the biggest trend in the IT sector next year?

"From what Fujitsu is seeing in the marketplace it is going to be that race to digital. Whilst 'Digital' has been on the agenda for some time, this has largely focused on the front-end, allowing businesses to compete through omni-channels.

"The challenge that traditional brands have found, however, is that until they digitise their back-end – such as their ordering systems and their customer management systems – they are falling behind on competing with the pure plays, who started with a digital 'piece of paper' and are now reaping the benefit."

Why do you think this?

"To stay price competitive and to be agile in the market via new innovations and responding quickly to change, the bigger brands will need to embrace this end-to-end digital value chain – sooner rather than later. Everything than can be digitalised will be digitalised - we have to embrace this."

Is this global, or UK specific?

"This is most definitely a global phenomenon, but clearly some countries are further along the journey than others."

What can organisations/consumers be doing to prepare for this?

"As I said, for many the easy part has been done – the front-end – so that customers can interface via a variety of channels. The harder part is behind the scenes. The problem is that this is where the cost and complexity lies, and the CMOs in brands need to be warming up their CFOs to make this investment, if they are to stay one step ahead of the new entrants – in order to drive down their cost base, and speed up their market competitiveness."

What do you think will happen to the conversation around women in business next year? What do you hope will happen?

"I think we are starting to see a slow shift in the numbers after a more considered focus upon this in many quarters over the past few years. This can only benefit businesses who want and need the broadest talent pool, with the widest set of skills and opinions.

"We are seeing it in Fujitsu with women representing 23 per cent of the workforce and a goal to increase this by 30 per cent by 2020. There is a growing percentage of women at every level of the organisation – especially at Board level – and I hope that we will also see it in every function of a business, particularly in engineering and design roles."

What would you like to see in 2016 happening around STEM?

"This is the area that concerns me the most and the one that unless we all take action now, our economy will suffer for many generations to come. We have got to encourage – through role models, through pay/opportunities, and through encouragement – more of our schoolchildren to invest their time and intellect in technology, engineering and sciences. The UK used to lead the world on this, was famous for amazing engineering projects and we need to get back to that point. We need to encourage our leaders of tomorrow to want to devote their energies to making this world a better place.

"At the moment, I am seeing too few people studying IT, Mathematics and the Sciences at GCSE and A Level. This is where we need them to get the bug, and want to create their future. That is not to say that there is a problem with other subjects, but at the moment the balance is wrong."

Image source: Shutterstock/Sergey Nivens