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Many women are put off an IT career because it is still seen as being a job for 'geeks programming in basements', according to Hilary Simpson, a senior IT exec at Camden Council.

Too many women are put off pursuing a career in IT because it has an image problem, according to Camden Council’s head of IT business partnering Hilary Simpson.

Simpson, who has held various IT roles at the council since 2000, suggested calling IT ‘digital’ might help encourage more women into the sector.

Many women get put off IT as it is still seen as the preserve of “geeks programming in basements”, Simpson told ComputerworldUK.

“We [Camden] have got tons of women in IT roles but only when they started working in IT did they become aware of the range of roles available and realise their skills were relevant,” she said.

“One problem is IT just doesn’t sound very glamorous. A lot more women are coming in from web design routes now. So do we need to rebrand it as digital?”

Simpson argued that girls and women should be targeted much earlier in their careers while they are at school, through code clubs, lessons in digital and IT, mentoring and dedicated IT apprenticeships.

Although Simpson completed a degree in physics, she said ‘the beauty’ of IT careers is that you can combine technical subjects with communication and people skills.

“You are solving practical problems, constantly working to improve the organisation you work for and learning new things all the time. It’s so exciting, yet both men and women would not necessarily look at IT and realise that’s what it is all about. I didn’t. There is an image problem,” she said.

Simpson argued more women would enter the IT industry if they knew how rewarding it can be, particularly in public services.

“IT is an amazing thing to do. You’ll always have a job, you’ll be really valued, you’ll almost certainly be able to work flexibly as you can code at home, and bluntly you get paid- if go into right sort of organisation- the same as the men, which is often a lot of money,” she said.

Simpson won a ‘women in IT’ award earlier this year for setting up the Camden ‘Residents Index’, a platform which matches data from 16 systems across the council to provide a single view of the customer.

The system allows the council to intervene earlier and better protect children, the elderly and vulnerable and tackle fraud, allowing it to better help its citizens but also save money.

Simpson describes the project as “precisely the sort of thing women like doing, because it’s immediately useful and delivers time savings.”

She added: “My passion is not really the tech. It’s silo busting. I love the idea of bringing different services together and providing a more holistic service to vulnerable people.”

Image credit: © Egress Switch/YouTube