Feeding the talent pipeline & championing women
Capgemini UK comprises 20% of the overall Capgemini group, which employs over 120,000 people – 9,000 of whom are based in the UK. The firm has three main service areas – consulting, technology and outsourcing.
“We are a people business. Without talent we are nothing,” says Hodgson. “If we don’t feed the organisation from the entry level upwards, we’ll soon wither and die.”
And while the availability of key skills in the fast-moving technology sector has become a familiar concern for business leaders in recent months, Hodgson is acting to ensure the organisation’s future talent pipeline is diverse.
She is backing apprenticeships and other initiatives to inspire young people into technology careers. Women currently make up just 13% of the UK’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) workforce.
Within Capgemini, females comprise 26% of employees, while in the upper echelons this is just 17%. Although this is up 3% from 2011, Hodgson acknowledges there’s still “a very long way to go”.
But in recognition of the benefits a diverse workforce can bring, Capgemini UK has set some specific gender diversity targets. They aim to increase the senior female headcount to 20% and the overall female headcount to 30% within five years.
She agrees the technology industry has historically struggled to attract young people, particularly girls. Although they now outperform boys in IT-related subjects such as ICT, maths and physics at 16+, there’s a high dropout rate among girls at A-level and university junctures, partly fuelled by the common perception that IT is masculine and ‘geeky’.
“Young girls think fashion or media is much more exciting than technology – we’ve got to change perceptions like that,” says Hodgson, explaining that Capgemini runs an after-school club for girls at a school in London to help demystify the world of work. “If they’re interested in fashion, we tell them about the work we do with fashion clients,” she says.
Schoolgirls are also regularly invited to attend the company’s internal women’s network, which Hodgson runs and champions.
“I invited Kathryn Parsons [founder of Decoded and winner of the Veuve Clicquot New Generation Award 2013] to speak at the last event,” she says. “The girls loved it. It’s a small thing but we try to infuse enthusiasm.”
However, Hodgson is pragmatic about the agenda and believes there will never be a 50/50 split between men and women in the IT profession.
“We expect people to work with clients Monday to Friday, which might mean being away from home, so a lot of women don’t want to do that for domestic reasons,” she says. “We try to be as flexible as possible but we are working on client projects with deadlines across different locations, which makes it difficult.
“With the best will in the world, I don’t think it will ever be equal – but we can work to improve the balance.”