Students have a poor understanding of the rich variety of roles available in the sector, she told an audience of 75 teenage girl students, finalists in a national competition run by Network Rail.

The broadcaster has linked up with Network Rail through the Teen Tech campaign she leads, encouraging teenagers to unlock their true potential and highlighting the opportunities in the technology sector.

Ms Philbin was one of three guest technology experts who spoke at the event, held for the finalists in Network Rail’s Could It be You? competition, set up two years ago by chief information officer, Susan Cooklin, after she raised concerns about the rapid slide in the number of women entering the UK’s IT sector.

Ms Philbin told her audience at Network Rail’s national centre The Quadrant, next to Milton Keynes Central railway station, that students, their parents and teachers did not fully understand the range of roles and opportunities in the technology sector.

“There is a real responsibility for employers to do as much as they can to clarify what is involved and help students understand how they very much belong in this world.”

The winner of this year’s Could It be You? competition, in which girls aged 16-18 are tasked with explaining how technology can improve their lives and make things better, will have their first year of university fees paid for by Network Rail.

Three runners-up will receive two weeks paid work experience and mentoring with Network Rail’s IT team. The winners will be announced next month. 

Ms Philbin said: 

"This great initiative from Network Rail is helping girls to see themselves in roles they may have previously discounted because they had a perception of rail as a male industry.

"It is not all hard hats and hi-vis jackets but an industry that needs good thinkers, people who thrive on teamwork and will derive satisfaction from solving infrastructure problems of every kind.

“It is a great industry and one where women can really make their mark.”

Figures from employer body e-skills UK show that the number of women working in IT has fallen from 38% of the workforce in the 1980s to 16% today. IT and telecommunications companies aim to recruit almost 21,000 staff directly from education but only 15% of students taking IT-related degrees are female.

Susam Cooklin set up the Could It Be You? competition to arrest the slide. She said: “The winners from last year’s competition all showed a creative mind for solving problems and good communications and these are the skills that business leaders are after.

“Technology plays an absolutely crucial role in moving 4.5 million people by rail in Britain, safely and reliably, every day. This competition is a great way to help young women realise what a career in IT is really about and the fantastic career opportunities that a company like Network Rail can offer."


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