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Goldman Sachs tech exec: Many women wrongly feel tech is an 'unobtainable' career

Lara O'Reilly
Executive Producer

Goldman Sachs EMEA technology head Jo Hannaford, one of the most senior technology leaders in UK finance, is surprised more women don’t consider a career in computer science.

Speaking on Yahoo Finance UK’s Global Change Agents with Lianna Brinded show, Hannaford said many women wrongly see computer programming as an “unobtainable career.”

Goldman Sachs has been encouraging more women within its ranks to learn to code, offering female analysts free coding lessons in the Python and Ruby scripting languages in partnership with the Code First Girls charity. Those courses are “oversubscribed,” Hannaford said, adding that they have helped those women gain confidence in coding.

Goldman Sachs EMEA tech chief Jo Hannaford. Photo: Yahoo Finance UK

“Fundamentally, programming is about an instruction set that you learn that you provide to a computer to do certain actions,” Hannaford said. “I think that it’s easier than Spanish, or French, or German — you don’t have to worry about emotion, you’re doing instructions.”

“Yet for many women, Spanish is a lot easier than Python and I just don’t understand that.”

Hannaford believes computer science is being taught less to girls in schools than in decades-past, which might be part of the problem: “That history has been edited — that’s a revised history.”

Fewer than 17% of workers in the UK technology sector are women, according to a report released earlier this month. Inclusive Tech Alliance, the membership body behind the report, suggested 1 million more women need to be hired in order for the UK tech industry to reach gender parity.

A separate report commissioned by HP, which polled 1,000 women aged 20 to 32, found while 70% of respondents were interested in tech sector jobs, a quarter (25%) said they didn’t study STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) subjects because they had a lack of confidence in their ability to do so.

Global Change Agents with Lianna Brinded is a new premium video series from Yahoo Finance UK. The show explores the stories of some of the most inspirational women across business, tech, and academia. Catch up on all the latest episodes here.