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So What Is Digital Anyway?

At She Does Digital we’re all about, unsurprisingly, digital. But what is digital and how is it different to tech or STEM? And why did we decide to focus our efforts on digital rather than one of these other areas?

Let’s begin with the easy one — STEM.

STEM

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics. It’s a term often used when talking about education and the best way to encourage greater numbers of girls and women to study, work and more importantly, remain in specific fields.

Within the STEM field, there’s often a heavy emphasis on maths, physics and computing. The wide range of occupations within STEM can make it difficult to get a true picture of the gender split as some industries skew the numbers. For example, in the UK in 2017, women now make up 24% of all people employed in core STEM fields. However, if we look specifically at Engineering, the number stands at only 11% women, while for ICT (Information and Communication Technology) it’s only 17%.

On the plus side, 42% of the science professionals workforce are women — covering roles such as chemists, biologists and meteorologists. This is why it’s so important to dig into the numbers — as the same research shows that only 15% of STEM management roles are held by women. Interestingly, in the US, research points to Science-based jobs paying less overall than roles in the other STEM industries. Could that be a factor in the representation of women? Or looking at it the other way, could it be that the roles are less well paid on average because there are more women? Something to think about.

Digital

“Digital” is a little harder to define. Is it the “how” we do things? Or the “what” we do? The dictionary defines it as:

•pertaining to, noting, or making use of computers and computerized technologies, including the Internet:

‘We are living in an increasingly digital world.’
‘Digital activism uses social media to achieve political reform.’
‘His blog is a great example of digital journalism.’
‘Digital technology has revolutionized the music industry.’

or

• Relating to, using, or storing data or information in the form of digital signals.
‘digital TV’
‘a digital recording’
• Involving or relating to the use of computer technology.
‘the digital revolution’

Government data from 2015 shows that only 26% of those working in the digital industry are women. The survey looked at roles such as graphic designers, art directors, programmers and software developers, IT architects and photographers. There’s an above-average need for people in all of these roles, yet there aren’t enough skilled candidates to go round.

The women who make up SDD work at a digital marketing agency based in Leeds, a vibrant city in the north of England that’s home to over 3,500 digital companies covering a wide range of industries. We come from every corner of the agency, so our skills span diverse areas such as web design and development, creative, project management, social media and content marketing, analytics, conversion optimisation, organic and paid search, and display advertising — a fairly textbook definition of “digital”.

Our main mission is to encourage more women to pursue careers in the digital industry — since it’s a space we know and understand we think it’s where we can have the biggest impact — as well as using our skills to help amplify and promote our message. Of course if we can help people get into careers in science and engineering we will do that too!

STEAM

Even though Digital could probably fit under the umbrella of “Technology” as part of STEM, I’ve often felt that STEM doesn’t really cover the scope of what we do in the world of digital advertising. There’s been a growing movement to use the term “STEAM” rather than “STEM”, with the ‘A’ standing for “Arts”. That helps us out too, as design, communication and creative planning are integral to the work we do on a day-to-day basis.

Some argue against this — given the relative shortages of candidates to fill STEM roles versus those in the Arts, should STEAM have the same focus? This could also be said when looking to address the matter of gender imbalance — some believe there’s no shortage of women in the Arts (incidentally I disagree — and blind auditions for orchestras show that there is a problem) — but the situation isn’t as bad as it is in STEM as a whole.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what terms we use, as long as there’s still imbalance and inequality. Many people will probably read this and scratch their heads because they use “STEM”, tech” and “digital” fairly interchangeably — I know I often do. We’re living in the Information Age — the Digital Age. Everything we do in our lives now has some digital aspect to it and that’s what counts. If we can help women play an equal part in creating and shaping the digital future that lies ahead of us, then we’ve done our job.